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Title: The Campaign of Sedan - The Downfall of the Second Empire, August-September 1870
Author: Hooper, George
Language: English
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Bohn’S Standard Library


“The policy of your Government will bring you to Jena,” said M. de
Moustier to Herr von Bismarck during the Crimean War. “Why not to
Waterloo?” was the prompt and prophetic reply.

Wo Kraft und Muth in deutscher Seele flammen.


The Downfall of the Second Empire
August–September 1870



Author of “Waterloo: the Downfall of the First Napoleon: a History of
the Campaign of 1815,” etc.

With Map and Plans


George Bell And Sons

Chiswick Press: Charles Whittingham and Co.
Tooks Court, Chancery Lane, London.


When it was decided to publish a new and cheaper edition of Mr. George
Hooper’s “Sedan,” the question arose whether anything should be added
to it. My father had intended, should a new edition be called for, to
revise and correct the work, and to furnish it with an index. After due
consideration it has been decided to make no additions to the book,
except the index, which has been carefully compiled. A few errors that
had crept into the text of the original edition have been corrected;
but in other respects the volume remains as it was left by its author.

                                                        WYNNARD HOOPER.

 _October, 1897_.

                     PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

The War of 1870–71 was opened by a campaign of thirty days, complete in
itself, and the author must plead the dramatic unity of the great event
as a reason for treating it in a separate form. Although the foundation
of those ulterior successes which enabled the Germans to proclaim the
King of Prussia Emperor in Germany, and to do so in the palace of Louis
XIV., yet, from an historical point of view, the astonishing series
of battles and marches which ended in the Investment of Metz, and the
Capitulation of Sedan may be regarded as standing apart, because they
carried with them the Downfall of the Second Empire. The Campaign of
Sedan, in this respect, is the supplement of the Campaign of Waterloo;
but, of course, there is no resemblance between Napoleon III. and
Napoleon I., nor in the political and military conditions and results
of the two catastrophes.

The materials at the disposal of any author who ventures to narrate
the campaign are abundant and yet incomplete. The History of the War
prepared by the German Staff is minute even to weariness, but it must
always stand as the authentic foundation of every narrative. Unreadable
to the general public, it is invaluable to the soldier-student, and
to all who wish to know what the German Army is like, and how it
wages war. It need scarcely be said that the Staff narrative is the
basis of this book, which is an endeavour to present its essence
in a succinct and readable form. Unhappily, the French accounts are
wanting in precision, so that it is difficult to comprehend how they
fought their battles, and impossible to ascertain accurately what was
their numerical strength at any moment. The deficiency is serious,
because it mars the completeness of the story, and frustrates every
attempt to do them full justice. For, if the Army, as an Army, was
wasted by incapable commanders, the soldiers fought well and did
nothing to derogate from their old renown. They had to encounter
better commanders, more numerous and better soldiers, and they were
beaten, but they were not disgraced. The whole lesson of the war is
lost, if the fact is ignored that the German Army, from top to bottom,
was superior in every way to that of Napoleon III., as well as more
numerous; and that what made it superior was the spirit of Duty, using
the word in its highest sense, which animated the host, from the King,
who was its shining exemplar, to the private who was proud to rival his

The contrast, which this war exhibited, between the French and German
methods of making and using an Army is so violent, that it becomes
painful, and imparts an air of one-sidedness to the narrative. But the
facts must be stated, although the bare statement suggests partiality
in the narrator. I have, nevertheless, tried to be impartial, and
in doing my best, I have found it impossible to read the abounding
evidence of Imperial neglect, rashness and indecision, without feeling
pity for the soldiers and the nation which had to bear the penalties.
The French Army has been remodelled and increased enormously; the
secular quarrel between Germany and France is still open; and some day
it may be seen whether the Republicans, out of the same materials,
have been able to create an Army such as the Imperialists failed to
produce. Whether they have succeeded or not, it may be fervently hoped
that the deep impression which the examples of thoroughness, revealed
by the wars of 1866 and 1870, made on our own country will never be
effaced; and that the public will insist that our small Army, in every
part, shall be as good as that which crossed the French frontier in
1870, and triumphed in the Campaign of Sedan.

  KENSINGTON, _April 6th, 1887_.



  INTRODUCTION                                                      1

                               CHAPTER I.

                         THE CAUSES OF THE WAR.

  French Demands for the Rhine—Luxemburg—An Interlude of
  Peace—The Salzburg Interview—The Emperor seeks Allies—The
  Hohenzollern Candidature—The French Government and the Chamber   17

                               CHAPTER II.

                       THE GATHERING OF THE HOSTS.

  German Mobilization—French Mobilization—War Methods Contrasted   56

                              CHAPTER III.

                             STAGE THUNDER.

  The Combat at Saarbrück—Preparing to go Forward—Positions on
  August 4—The Moral and Political Forces                          72

                               CHAPTER IV.

                          INVASION IN EARNEST.

  The Combat on the Lauter—French Position on the Saar—German
  Position on the Saar                                             84

                               CHAPTER V.

                          TWO STAGGERING BLOWS.

  1. Woerth—The Battle Begins—Attack on Woerth—Attack on
  the French Right—Attack on Elsasshausen—MacMahon Orders
  a Retreat—The Close of the Battle. 2. Spicheren—The
  Battle-field—The Germans Begin the Fight—The Red Hill
  Stormed—Progress of the Action—Frossard Retires                  96

                               CHAPTER VI.

                          VACILLATION IN METZ.

  The Emperor Resigns his Command—The German Advance—The German
  Cavalry at Work—The Germans March on the Moselle                131

                              CHAPTER VII.

                     VON MOLTKE KEEPS THE WHIP HAND.

  The French Propose to Move—The Battle of Colombey-Nouilly—Von
  Golz Dashes In—The End of the Battle—The French Retreat—The
  Germans Cross the Moselle—The Cavalry Beyond the Moselle—Orders
  for the Flank March—The Emperor Quits the Army                  145

                              CHAPTER VIII.

                      THE FRENCH RETREAT THWARTED.

  Vionville-Mars la Tour—The Vionville Battlefield—The
  French are Surprised—The Third Corps Strikes In—Arrival
  of Bazaine—Bredow’s Brilliant Charge—The Fight becomes
  Stationary—Arrival of the Tenth Corps—The Great Cavalry
  Combat—End of the Battle                                        167

                               CHAPTER IX.

                          PRESSED BACK ON METZ.

  Marshal Bazaine—The Battlefield of Gravelotte—The German
  Plans—The Battle of Gravelotte—Prince Frederick Charles at
  the Front—Steinmetz Attacks the French Left—Operations by the
  German Left Wing—General Frossard Repels a Fresh Attack—The
  Last Fights near St. Hubert—The Prussian Guard on the Centre
  and Left—The Capture of St. Privat                              188

                               CHAPTER X.


  The King Marches Westward—The Cavalry Operations—The Emperor at
  Chalons and Reims—MacMahon retires to Reims—The Chalons Army
  Directed on the Meuse                                           228


  The Cavalry Discover the Enemy—Movements of the French—The
  Marshal Resolves, Hesitates, and Yields—Movements of the
  Germans—Effects of MacMahon’s Counter-orders—German and French
  Operations on the 29th—The Combat at Nouart—The State of
  Affairs at Sundown—The Battle of Beaumont—The Surprise of the
  Fifth Corps—The Flight to Mouzon                                244

                              CHAPTER XII.

                           METZ AND STRASBURG.

  The Battle of Noisseville                                       276

                              CHAPTER XIII.


  German Decision—Confusion in the French Camp—The Movements
  of the Germans—The Battlefield of Sedan—The Battle of
  Sedan—MacMahon’s Wound and its Consequences—Progress of the
  Battle on the Givonne—The March on St. Menges—The Eleventh and
  Fifth Corps Engage—The Condition of the French Army—The French
  Cavalry Charge—General de Wimpffen’s Counter stroke—The Emperor
  and his Generals—King William and his Warriors—How the Generals
  Rated Each Other—The Generals Meet at Donchery—Napoleon III.
  Surrenders—The French Generals Submit—The End                   285


  I. The German Field Armies—II. The French Army—III. The
  Protocol of Capitulation—IV. A List of the Principal Works
  Consulted for the Campaign of Sedan                             339

  INDEX                                                           359

                            MAP AND PLANS.

            I. BATTLE OF WOERTH.





            VI. BATTLE OF SEDAN.

            VII. GENERAL MAP.

                        THE CAMPAIGN OF SEDAN.


In July, 1870, fifty-five years after the Allied Armies, who had
marched from the decisive field of Waterloo, entered Paris, a young
diplomatist, Baron Wimpfen, started from the French capital, for
Berlin. He was the bearer of a Declaration of War, from the Emperor
Napoleon III., to William I., King of Prussia; and the fatal message
was delivered to the French Chargé d’Affaires, M. le Sourd, and by
him to the Prussian Government on the 19th of July. Thus, once again,
a Napoleon, at the head of a French Empire, was destined to try his
strength against the principal German Power beyond the Rhine.

Yet, under what different conditions! The Emperor was not now the
Napoleon who surrounded the Austrians at Ulm, broke down the combined
forces of Austria and Russia at Austerlitz, and extorted a peace which
set him free to overthrow, at Jena and Auerstadt, the fine army left by
Frederick the Great, and allowed to crystallize by his weak successors.
Nor did the late Emperor find in his front a divided Germany, and
the mere survival of a great military organization. He found a
united people, and an army surpassing in completeness, as it did in
armaments—the victors of Prague, Rosbach, and Leuthen. The Germany
known to the Congress of Vienna had disappeared—the deformed had been
transformed. The little seed of unity, sown early in the century, had
grown into a forest tree. The spirit of Arndt had run through the
whole Teutonic nation, which, after the turmoil of 1848 had subsided,
and the heavy hand of Russia had been taken off by the Crimean War,
found a leader in the strongly-organized kingdom of Prussia. When the
weak and hesitating will of Frederick William IV. ceased, first, by
the operation of a painful disease, and then by extinction, to disturb
the course of his country’s fortune, Prussia, in a few years, became
practically a new Power. King William I., who crowned himself with his
own hands at Königsberg, began his task, as a ruler, in a grave and
earnest spirit, holding that kingship was not only a business, but a
trust, and taking as his watchwords, Work and Duty. No monarch in any
age, no private man, ever laboured more assiduously and conscientiously
at his _métier_, to use the word of Joseph II., than the King of
Prussia. He became Regent in 1858, when Napoleon III. was engaged in
preparing for his Italian campaign against the House of Austria. French
policy, with varying watchwords, had run that road for centuries; and,
during the summer of 1859, it was the good fortune of the Emperor to
win a series of victories which brought his army to the Mincio, and
before the once famous Quadrilateral. The German Bund had taken no
part in the fray, but the rapid successes of the French aroused some
apprehensions in Berlin, and there went forth an order to mobilize
a part of the army, which means to put each corps on a war-footing,
and to assemble a force in Rhenish Prussia. Whatever share that
demonstration may have had in producing the sudden arrangement between
the rival Emperors, who made peace over their cigarettes and coffee
at Villafranca, the experiment tried by the Berlin War Office had one
important result—it brought to light serious defects in the system then
practised, and revealed the relative weakness of the Prussian army.
From that moment, the Regent, who soon became King by the death of his
brother, began the work of reforming the military system. For this
step, at least from a Prussian standpoint, there was good reason; since
the kingdom, although it was based on a strong and compact nucleus,
was, as a whole, made up of scattered fragments lying between great
military Powers, and therefore could not hope to subsist without a
formidable army. The relative weakness of Prussia had, indeed, been
burnt into the souls of Prussian statesmen; and King William, on his
accession, determined that as far as in him lay, that grave defect
should be cured. A keen observer, a good judge of character and
capacity, his experience of men and things, which was large, enabled
him at once to select fit instruments. He picked out three persons, two
soldiers and a statesman, and severe ordeals in after years justified
his choice. He appointed General von Roon, Minister of War, and no man
in modern times has shown greater qualities in the organization of an
army. He placed General von Moltke at the head of the General Staff,
which that able man soon converted into the best equipped and the
most effective body of its kind known to history. It rapidly became,
what it now is, the brain of the army, alike in quarters and in the
field. Finally, after some meditation, he called Herr Otto von Bismarck
from the diplomatic service, which had revealed his rare and peculiar
qualities, and made this Pomeranian squire his chief political adviser,
and the manager of his delicate and weighty State affairs.

Thenceforth, the long-gathering strength of Prussia, the foundations
of which were bedded deep in the history of its people, began to assume
a form and a direction which great events revealed to astonished and
incredulous Europe. The experiment undertaken by the King and his chief
councillors was rendered less difficult by that effect of the Crimean
War which so materially lessened the influence of Russia in Germany.
The intimate and friendly relations subsisting between the two Courts
remained unbroken, and to its preservation in fair weather and foul,
Prussia owed, to a large extent, the favourable conditions surrounding
the application and development of her policy. It seemed as necessary
to Prussian, as it now does to German interests, that the Russian
Government should be, at least, benevolently neutral; and probably
the art of keeping it so was profoundly studied by Herr von Bismarck
when he filled the post of Ambassador to the Court of St. Petersburg.
The large military reforms designed by the King and his advisers
aroused an uncompromising opposition in the native Parliament, which
was only overcome by the firmness with which King William supported
his outspoken and audacious Minister. The victory was secured by
methods which were called, and were, unconstitutional. The control
of the Chamber over the Budget was placed in abeyance, by a clever
interpretation of the fundamental law. It was held that if the Deputies
could not agree with the Government respecting the estimates of the
current year, the law which they had sanctioned in the preceding year
still remained valid. Thus the taxes were collected, appropriated and
expended, just the same as if the Chamber had not virtually “stopped
the supplies” in order to defeat the measures which were intended to
give the army stability, numbers, efficiency and cohesion. The whole
transaction ran counter to English maxims and customs; but it should be
remembered that Parliamentary Government, and especially government by
party, were never, and are not even now established in Berlin. The net
result of the contest was the renovation and the strengthening of the
National Army to an extent which, while it did not exceed, perhaps, the
expectations of those who laboriously wrought it out, left some Powers
of Europe ignorant, and others incredulous respecting its value.

Not that the military institutions of Prussia, dating back from the
“new model,” devised during the stress of the Napoleonic Wars, had
been fundamentally altered. Nothing was done except to increase the
numbers, close up and oil the machinery, render its working prompt
and easy by prudent decentralization, give it a powerful brain in the
General Staff, and impart to the whole system a living energy. The
art of war, if the phrase may be allowed, was, in accordance with
venerable traditions rooted in the Hohenzollern House, taken up as a
serious business; and that deep sense of its importance which prevailed
at the fountain head, was made to permeate the entire frame. That
is the real distinguishing characteristic of the Prussian, now the
German army, as contrasted with the spirit in which similar labours
were undertaken by some other Powers. The task was a heavy one, but
the three men who set about it were equal to the task. King William,
with a large intelligence, a severe yet kindly temper, and a thorough
knowledge of his work, threw himself heart and soul into the business,
and brought to bear upon its conduct that essential condition of
success, the “master’s eye.” General von Roon framed or sanctioned
the administrative measures which were needed to create an almost
self-acting and cohesive organism, which could be set in motion by a
telegram, as an engineer starts a complicated piece of machinery by
touching a lever. Von Moltke, as chief of the General Staff, supplied
the directing intellect, and established a complete apparatus for
the collection and classification of knowledge, bearing upon military
affairs, which might be applied wherever needed. These men, working
with “unhasting, unresting” diligence, founded a school of war, not
based on “the law of the Medes and Persians which altereth not,” but
upon the vital principle that a good army should possess in itself
such a power of adaptation, as will make it always abreast with the
latest genuine discoveries in tactics, arms, material appliances,
and discipline. Also the army was treated as a great school in which
officers and men alike were teaching and learning from dawn to sunset,
throughout the allotted period of service. The principal trio had other
and able helpers, but they were the main springs moving and guiding the
marvellous product of constant labour applied by rare capacity.

The ultimate, although not the immediate, effect of the French
successes at Magenta and Solferino, was the creation of an Italian
kingdom, which included within its boundaries, Naples, Sicily, the
States of the Church, except Rome, and of course the Duchies on
the right bank of the Po. The price of compliance, exacted by the
Emperor Napoleon, whose plans had been thwarted, was the cession to
him of Nice and Savoy. Venice and the territory beyond the Mincio
remained Austrian for several years. While the map of Italy was in
course of reconstruction, the political conflict in Berlin raged on
with unintermitted violence. Simultaneously the Austrian Emperor was
induced to assert his claims to predominance in Germany, but the
plans laid, in 1863, were blighted by the prompt refusal of William I.
to take any share in them. It was the first symptom of reviving
hostility between the two Powers, although a little later, on the
death of the King of Denmark, they were found, side by side in arms,
to assert the claims of the German Bund upon Holstein, Schleswig and
Lauenburg, and avert the occupation of those countries by the troops
of Saxony and other minor States alone. The campaign which ensued
brought the “new model of the” Prussian army to the test of actual
experiment. But the brave adversaries they had to encounter, if stout
in heart, were weak in numbers; and Europe did not set much store by
the victories then achieved by Prussia. The public and the Governments
were intently occupied with the Secession War in the United States of
America, and the astounding expedition to Mexico, which was designed
to place an Austrian Archduke on “the throne of the Montezumas,”
under illustrious French patronage. Thus the quality of the troops,
the great influence of the famous “needle-gun,” the character of the
staff, and the excellent administrative services escaped the notice
of all, save the observant few. The political aspects of the dispute
were keenly discussed. Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell were, at one
moment, disposed to fight for the Treaty of 1851; but the Danish King
committed grave blunders; Russia stood aloof, the Emperor Napoleon
III. distinctly refused to enter the lists, and the House of Commons
was decidedly averse to war. Here it should be noted that the French
Emperor, meditating on the value to him of the rival Powers in Germany,
had determined to stand well with both. He hoped to please Austria by
making the brother of Francis Joseph Emperor of Mexico, and to keep
open the possibilities of an alliance with Prussia, by throwing no
obstacles in her way on the Eider.

Then began the great strife between the two Governments which had
wrested the Elbe Duchies from the Dane. When the short war ended,
certain divisions from each army were posted in the conquered country,
and the rivalry which animated the two Courts was carried on by
diplomats and statesmen. Prussian policy, since the days of
Frederick II., had leaned always towards, if not an alliance with
Russia, yet the maintenance of a solid understanding with that growing
Power. Herr von Bismarck, who was a deep student in the history of his
own country, and who had always nourished large ideas, kept steadily
on the well-trodden path, but imparted to his methods a boldness, an
inventiveness, and an energy most unusual in Prussian statescraft.
The Polish insurrection of 1864 gave him an opportunity which he did
not neglect, and while the poor patriots were assisted from the side
of Galicia, on the Posen frontier they were ruthlessly repressed, the
Russian and Prussian troops making common cause, and crossing the
frontier whenever that step seemed needful. The ill-fated Poles, of
course, were defeated; Prussia had recorded a fresh claim upon the
benevolent neutrality of Russia, while Austrian “ingratitude,” never
forgiven in St. Petersburg, took a deeper tinge in the eyes of the
Czar. The Prussian Government had not long to wait for their reward.
During the summer of 1865, the abiding quarrel between Vienna and
Berlin, respecting the future status of the conquered or restored
Duchies, nearly came to an open rupture. Neither side, however, was
ready for a blow, and the “Convention of Gastein,” which Bismarck,
in a letter to his wife, defined as a mode of “pasting together the
cracks in the building,” was devised to gain time. The Prussian army,
still incomplete from the royal and the military point of view, had
been augmented after the Danish war, and the new levies of horse and
artillery had not acquired the requisite instruction. So the summer and
autumn of 1865 wore away, revealing the spectacle of King William and
Herr von Bismarck battling fiercely with the Parliament, and not so
clearly displaying Von Moltke and Von Roon labouring hourly to bring
the machine intrusted to their charge up to the highest attainable
efficiency. There were other reasons for delay. As it was more than
probable that the South Germans, and possible that the King of Hanover
would not rank themselves with Prussia, but go with Austria and the
Bund, an ally was wanted who would divide the forces of the largest
Power. That ally was found in the newly united kingdom of Italy.

But before the Italian envoy astonished the diplomatic world by his
apparition at Berlin, in March, the controversy between Austria and
Prussia had gone on rapidly, step by step, nearer towards a rupture.
Count Mensdorff, on behalf of the Emperor Francis Joseph, set up a
claim to full liberty of action in the Duchy of Holstein, and began
openly to favour the pretentions of the Duke Frederick of Augustenburg
to the Ducal Chair. That position was vigorously contested by Herr von
Bismarck, who put an opposite construction on the Treaty, which created
what was called the “condominium.” The consequence was a frequent and
animated exchange of despatches, containing such “arguments” as seemed
proper to the occasion. Into the merits of this dispute it is needless
to enter now, since the whole drift of the verbal struggle shows that
while Prussia was intent on providing a solid ground on which to fight
out a long-standing quarrel—“inevitable,” said Von Moltke, “sooner or
later,”—Austria was by no means inclined to shrink from a test directly
applied to her position in Germany. Whatever line she had taken her
rival would have discovered, or tried to discover, an opposing course;
but, it so happened, that, whether by chance or miscalculation, Count
Mensdorff, the Austrian Foreign Minister, managed his case so as to
give advantages to his abler antagonist. In the last days of February
a great council was held in Berlin. Not only the King and his chief
Minister, but General von Moltke and General von Manteuffel, from
Schleswig, took part in its deliberations. It was the turning point
in the grave debate, so far as Prussian action was concerned; for
the decision then adopted unanimously, was, that Prussia could not
honourably recede, but must go forward, even at the risk of war. No
order was given to prepare for that result, because the organization
of the army was complete, and moreover, because “the King was very
adverse to an offensive war.” Nevertheless, from that moment such an
issue of the dispute became certain to occur at an early day. Yet
neither party wished to fight over the Duchies; each felt that the
cause was too paltry. The Austrians, therefore, extended the field,
by appealing to the Bund, a move which gave Herr von Bismarck the
advantage he so eagerly sought. He answered it by resolving to push, in
his own sense, the cause of federal reform. Learning this determination
early in March, M. Benedetti observed to Herr von Bismarck that it
would insure peace. “Yes,” answered the Minister President,—“for
three months,” a very accurate forecast by a prophet who could fulfil
his own prediction, and who desired to fight the adversary promptly,
lest a reconciliation should be effected between Vienna and Pesth,
and Hungary, from a source of weakness, should thus become a tower of

A few days later, March 14th, General Govone, from Florence, arrived
in Berlin. His advent had been preceded by attempts, on the part of
Bismarck, to discover how the French would look on a Prusso-Italian
alliance. The subject was delicate, and even after the General’s
arrival, it was officially stated that he had come, exclusively, to
study the progress in small arms and artillery! The pretence was soon
abandoned, and the negotiations were avowed; but the conclusion of a
treaty was delayed for some days, because no specific date could be
fixed on for the outbreak of war, Prussia having determined, at least
to make it appear, that she was not the aggressor. At length a form of
words was devised, which satisfied both Powers, stipulating that Italy
was to share in the war, providing it began within “three months,” and
the Convention was signed on the 8th of April. Not, however, before it
had been well ascertained that France had really helped on the Prussian
alliance and desired to see war ensue, although, avowedly, she did not
interfere, giving out that she stood neuter, and that the understanding
which might be ultimately come to between France and Prussia would be
determined by the march of events, the extension of the war, and the
questions to which it might give rise. This language foreshadowed the
policy which the Emperor, if not M. Drouyn de Lhuys desired to follow;
and as Russia, recently obliged in the Polish troubles, was friendly,
if not allied, Herr von Bismarck was convinced that no foreign power
would array itself on the side of Austria, unless the campaign were

Henceforth, the aim of each disputant was to secure a vantage-ground
in Germany. Austria had partially collected troops in Bohemia and
Moravia, and had secretly stipulated with several States to call out
four Federal corps d’armée; while Prussia, who could wait, being always
ready, had only carried her preparations forward to a certain extent.
M. von Beust, the Saxon Minister, then intervened with a proposal
that the Diet should name arbiters, whose decision should be final;
a suggestion instantly rejected by the principals in the quarrel.
The Emperor Napoleon III., towards the end of May, when Prussian
mobilization had practicably been completed in eight corps, produced
his specific—the characteristic proposal that a Conference should be
held in Paris to study the means of maintaining the peace. Prussia
accepted the offer, but Austria put an end to the hopes of Napoleon,
by stipulating that no arrangement should be discussed which would
augment the territory or power of any party of the Conference, and in
addition that the Pope should be invited to share in any deliberations
on “the Italian Question.” These pretensions, by excluding, what
everyone wanted, the cession of Venetia to Italy, decided the fate
of the Conference. “They desire war at Vienna,” said Von Bismarck to
Count Benedetti. “These conditions have been conjured up solely for the
purpose of giving the States in South Germany time to complete their
military preparations.” And when the news came officially from Paris
that the Austrian answer had killed the project, the Minister President
shouted in the French Ambassador’s presence “Vive le Roi!” The solution
was war. The Prussian army, for once, had been mobilized by slow
degrees. More than a month elapsed between the first precautionary
and the final steps, but by the 12th of May the entire active army
had been summoned to arms. The Conference project was a last attempt,
made, indeed, after all hope of arresting the conflict had vanished,
alike in Vienna and Berlin; and it was followed by events in Holstein,
which put an end to the period of suspense, and formed a prelude to the
war. Practically, but without actual fighting, General von Manteuffel
compelled the Austrian brigade, under Field-Marshal von Glablenz, to
retreat swiftly over the Elbe. The pretext for this strong measure was
the fact that Austria, by her sole will, had summoned the Estates to
meet at Itzehöe, and had thus infringed the rights of King William!
Thereupon Austria requested the Diet at Frankfort to call out all
the Federal Corps; and her demand was complied with, on the 14th of
June, by a majority of nine to six. The Prussian delegate protested,
and withdrew, leaving Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, Wurtemburg, the two
Hesses, and several minor States, in open combination against Prussia.
But the same stroke which isolated the latter, also destroyed the
German Bund, invented by the kings and statesmen of 1815, to preserve
internal tranquillity, and safeguard the Fatherland against France.
The arrangement implied the co-operation of two Powers; one purely
German, yet subordinate; the other parcel German, and mainly consisting
of divers peoples outside Germany; and it fell to pieces at a blow,
because the time had arrived when one of the two must attain supremacy.
Side by side with the secular dynastic conflict arose in the nation
that longing for unity which could only be accomplished by a thoroughly
German Power.

That Power was Prussia, trained for the task by the steadfast labours
of two hundred years. The army she had formed did its work swiftly.
Pouring through Saxony and over the Silesian Mountains, the King and
his son, July 3rd, crushed the Austrians, on the memorable field of
Sadowa, near Königgrätz. The Hanoverian troops, after winning the
fight at Langensalza, had been obliged to surrender, and in South
Germany the army employed to overcome the Confederates was equally
victorious. On the 22nd of July, so swiftly had the main body moved,
the Prussians were in front of Vienna and Presburg on the Danube.
Four days afterwards, the Emperor Napoleon having struck in with an
offer of mediation, which was accepted, the preliminaries of a peace
were signed at Nikolsburg, on the 26th of July, and the final treaty
was settled and ratified at Prague, on the 23rd of August, long after
King William and his formidable Minister were once more in Berlin.
By this instrument, Austria was excluded from Germany; a Northern
Confederation, reaching to the Main, was founded; Hanover, the Elbe
Duchies, Hesse-Cassel, and other territories, were annexed to Prussia;
and a formal statement was inserted, declaring that Napoleon III., to
whom Austria had ceded Venetia, had acquired it in order to hand over
the city and Terra Firma, as far as the Isonzo, to Victor Emmanuel,
when the peace should be re-established. Prussia thus became the
acknowledged head of Germany, at least as far as the Main; and the
national longing for complete unity was about to be gratified in a much
shorter time than seemed probable in 1866.

Naturally, the astonishing successes won by Prussian arms against the
Federal Corps, as well as the Austrians, compelled the South German
States to sue for peace, and accept public treaties, which, while
leaving them independent, brought them all, more or less, within the
limits of a common German federation. But something more important was
accomplished at Nikolsburg. Herr von der Pfordten, the Bavarian Prime
Minister, repaired thither towards the end of July, and Bismarck was
in possession of information, including a certain French document,
which enabled him to state the German case in a manner so convincing
and terrifying, that the Bavarian agreed to sign a secret treaty,
bringing the army within the Prussian system, and stipulating that, in
case of war, it should pass at once under the command of King William.
That which Von der Pfordten conceded the Ministers of Wurtemburg and
Hesse Darmstadt could not refuse, and thus provision was made, on
the morrow of Sadowa, for that concentration of armed Germany which
overwhelmed France in 1870–71. So that, although nothing formally
constituting a United Germany had been done, Prussia, by securing the
control of all her forces, and knowing that a strong and deeply-rooted
public sentiment would support her, was satisfied that, providing
time could be gained in which to arm, instruct and discipline upon
the Prussian model the South Germans and the troops raised from the
annexed provinces, she would be more than a match for France. South
Germany, indeed, had long known her relative helplessness against the
French. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the real peril
was more perceptible to the soldiers and statesmen than to the people,
many of whom were strongly imbued with democratic ideas of the French
type. Yet, although they hungered for what they understood as liberty
and independence, they were still German, and did not fail to see that
their cherished desires could not be gratified either under French
patronage or French prefects. The soldiers and statesmen had early
perceived the full secret of South German dependence. The Archduke
Charles, who had great knowledge and harsh experience to guide him,
pointed out that the French posts on the Rhine had placed the country
south of the Main at the mercy of France. “As long as the Rhine
frontier from Huningen to Lauterbourg remains in her hands,” wrote
a Prussian staff-officer at a later period, “Germany is open on the
Rhine frontier to an invasion directed upon the Southern States.” No
stronger testimony to the sense, if not to the reality of insecurity
could be adduced, than the remarkable fact that, even so far back as
the Crimean War, the then King of Wurtemberg, in conversation with Herr
von Bismarck, set forth, significantly, the feelings, the hopes and the
dread of South Germany. “Give us Strassburg,” he said, “and we will
unite to encounter any eventuality . . . . for until that city shall
become German, it will always stand in the way of Southern Germany,
devoting herself unreservedly to German unity and to a German national
policy.” Hence it will be seen that, beyond the Main, there were
traditional, yet very real fears of French invasion; and that these
apprehensions had no small share in facilitating the acceptance of
the secret military treaties, and in shaping the course of subsequent

Thus much it seems needful to state, in order that some portion of the
earlier transactions which had a great influence in bringing on the
war of 1870, may be recalled to the reader’s mind. The short, sharp
and decisive duel fought between Austria and Prussia for leadership in
Germany, created a profound impression throughout Europe. Austria was
irritated as well as humbled; Russia, although the Czar remained more
than friendly, was not without apprehensions; but the French ruler and
his ministers were astounded, indignant and bewildered. The telegram,
which reported the Battle of Sadowa, wrenched a “cry of agony” from the
Court of the Tuileries, whose policy had been based on the conjecture
or belief that Prussia would be defeated, and would call for help. The
calculation was, that Napoleon III. would step in as arbiter, and that
while he moderated the demands of Austria, he would be able to extort
territorial concessions from Prussia as the reward of his patronage.
M. Drouyn de Lhuys would have had his master strike in, at once, and
cross the Rhine, or occupy the Palatinate; but the Emperor was not then
in the mood for heroic enterprises; he feared that his army was not
“ready,” and, besides, he still thought that by arrangement he could
obtain some sort of “compensation” from Prussia, at the expense of
Germany. But all he did was to pose as mediator at Nikolsburg; and Herr
von Bismarck, who had done his utmost to keep him in a dubious frame of
mind, regarded it as “fortunate” that he did not boldly thrust himself
into the quarrel. The “golden opportunity” slid by; M. Drouyn de Lhuys
resigned; and Imperial France acquiesced, publicly, in the political
and territorial arrangements which, for the first time, during the
lapse of centuries, laid broad and deep the foundations of German
Unity, and, as a consequence, rendered inevitable a France-German War.

                              CHAPTER I.

                        THE CAUSES OF THE WAR.

The Treaty of Prague, the secret military conventions signed at
Nikolsburg, the ascendancy secured by Von Bismarck, now elevated to
the dignity of a Count, together with the complete removal of alien
Powers from Italy, wrought a radical change in the political relations
of the European States. Excluded from Germany, although including
powerful German elements, the dominions of Austria still extended
to the verge of Venetia and the Lombard plains; but as the Prussian
statesman had already hinted, her future lay Eastward, and her centre
of gravity had been removed to Buda-Pesth. In the South German Courts,
no doubt, there was a bias towards Vienna, and a dislike of Prussia;
yet both the leaning and the repugnance were counterbalanced by a
deeper dread of France rooted in the people by the vivid memories of
repeated and cruel invasions. Russia, somewhat alarmed by the rapid
success of King William, had been soothed by diplomatic reassurances,
the tenour of which is not positively known, although a series of
subsequent events more than justified the inference made at that time,
that promises, bearing on the Czar’s Eastern designs, were tendered
and accepted as a valuable consideration for the coveted boon of
benevolent neutrality, if not something more substantial. Like Russia,
France had lost nothing by the campaign of 1866; her territories were
intact; her ruler had mediated between Austria and Prussia; and he had
the honour of protecting the Pope, who, as a spiritual and temporal
Prince, was still in possession of Rome and restricted territorial
domains. But the Napoleonic Court, and many who looked upon its head
as a usurper, experienced, on the morrow of Sadowa, and in a greater
degree after the preface to a peace had been signed at Nikolsburg,
a sensation of diminished magnitude, a consciousness of lessened
prestige, and a painful impression that their political, perhaps even
their military place in Europe, as the heirs of Richelieu,
Louis XIV., and Napoleon, had been suddenly occupied by a Power which
they had taught themselves to contemn as an inferior. Until the summer
of 1866 the Emperor Napoleon fancied that he was strong enough to play
with the Prussian Minister a game of diplomatic finesse; indeed, he
seems to have thought that the Pomeranian gentleman would be an easy
prey; but having thus put it to the proof, he did not concur in the
maxim that it is as pleasant to be cheated as to cheat, especially
when the result is chiefly due to complaisant self-deception. On the
other hand, Herr von Bismarck had no longer any delusions concerning
Louis Napoleon. If, at an early period, when the English Radicals were
considering whether the new Emperor was “stupid,” a proposition they
had taken for granted theretofore, he had over-estimated the capacity
of the self-styled “parvenu,” later experience had reduced the estimate
to just proportions, and had produced a correct judgment upon the
character of one who, down to the last, was always taken for more than
he was worth. If any one knew him well, it was probably his cousin,
the Duc de Morny, and M. St. Marc Girardin has preserved a sentence
which is an illuminative commentary upon so many curious transactions
during the Second Empire. “The greatest difficulty with the Emperor,”
said De Morny, “is to remove from his mind a fixed idea, and to give
him a steadfast will.” His fixed ideas were not always compatible
one with another. He professed great devotion to the “principle of
nationalities;” yet he desired to carry the French frontiers as far as
the Rhine, adding further German populations and Flemish towns whose
inhabitants are not French to those acquired by Louis XIV. He wished
for peace, no doubt, when he said that the Empire was synonymous with
that word, but he also hungered for the fruits of war; and, knowing
that his internal position and his external projects required, to
uphold the one and realize the other, a strong and complete army, he
had neither the wit to construct a trustworthy instrument, nor the
ceaseless industry needed to make the most of an inferior product, nor
that absolute independence of the party whose audacity gave him his
crown, which would have enabled him to select, in all cases, the best
officers for the higher and highest commands. Before, and during the
war of 1866, he wavered between two lines of policy, hoping to combine
the advantages of both; and when it was over he demanded compensation
for his “services” as an alarmed spectator, although he had made no
bargain for payment, but had stood inactive because he conjectured that
it would be the more profitable course.

                    _French demands for the Rhine._

In making that calculation he erred profoundly. M. Benedetti, the
French Ambassador to the Court of Berlin, was instructed as early as
the first week in August, 1866, to claim the left bank of the Rhine
as far as, and including the important fortress of Mainz. “Knowing
the temper of the Minister-President,” and knowing also, as he had
repeatedly told his Government, that all Germany would resist any
proposal to cede the least portion of territory, he first sent in a
copy of M. Drouyn de Lhuys’ despatch, and afterwards called on the
Minister. Prince von Bismarck, in 1871, published in the official
newspapers his account of the famous interview, which shows that
Benedetti, as he had pledged himself to do, resolutely pressed the
large demand. He was told that it meant war, and that he had “better
go to Paris to prevent a rupture.” Unmoved, he replied that he would
return home, “but only to maintain a proposition the abandonment of
which would imperil the dynasty.” “The parting words” of the Prussian
statesman to Count Benedetti, as nearly as they could be remembered by
the man who spoke them, were calculated to suggest grave reflections.
“Please to call His Majesty’s attention to this,” said Herr von
Bismarck. “Should a war arise out of this complication, it might be
a war attended by a revolutionary crisis. In such a case the German
dynasties are likely to prove more solid than that of the Emperor
Napoleon.” It was a menace and a prophetic warning, which touched
a sensitive fibre in the heart of the French ruler, who, after a
conversation with Count Benedetti, wrote, on the 12th of August, a
remarkable letter to M. de Lavalette, who became the _ad interim_
successor of M. Drouyn de Lhuys. Expressing his fears lest “the
journals” should taunt him with the refusal of his demand for the
Rhine provinces, he directed that the report should be contradicted,
flatly; and he added, “the true interest of France is not to obtain an
insignificant increase of territory, but to aid Germany in constituting
herself after a fashion which will be most favourable to our interests
and those of Europe.” Neither Dodona nor Delphos could have been more
oracular. Alarmed as he was, he did not altogether recede from his
position, but occupied it in a different way. On the 16th of August a
fresh set of proposals was forwarded to Count Benedetti, comprising a
regular scale of concessions—the frontiers of 1814 and the annexation
of Belgium, or Luxemburg and Belgium, or the Duchy with Belgium,
without Antwerp, which was to be “declared a free city.” The last-named
device was designed “to obviate the intervention of England” when the
projected act of violence was committed. “The _minimum_ we require,”
wrote the French Government to M. Benedetti, “is an ostensible treaty
which gives us Luxemburg, and a secret treaty which, stipulating for
an offensive and defensive alliance, leaves us the chance of annexing
Belgium at the right moment, Prussia engaging to assist us, by force
of arms, if necessary, in carrying out this purpose.” If Herr von
Bismarck asked what he should gain by such a treaty, the answer was
to be that he would secure a powerful ally, and that “he was only
desired to consent to the cession of what does not belong to him.” The
official papers on which these statements are founded were discovered
and acquired by the Germans in Cerçay, M. Rouher’s château, during
the war of 1870; neither their authenticity nor the construction put
on them have ever been contested; and they show, plainly, what was
the kind of projects nourished by the French Court in 1866–67. The
precise manner in which Count von Bismarck actually dealt with them
has not been revealed, but he kept a rough copy of the project drawn
up by Benedetti, which was handed to him by the French Ambassador in
1867, and the boxes of papers found at Cerçay gave him the draft treaty
itself annotated by the Emperor. Practically, the secret negotiation
dropped, was not renewed for several months, and was only “resumed,
subsequently, at various times,” without producing any other result
than that of letting Bismarck know the plans which were conceived in
Paris, and inducing him to keep the Napoleonic Government in play.
There can be no doubt on one point. The Prussian statesman did, at
various periods, probably at Biarritz in 1865, when he captivated
Prosper Merimée, and afterwards, while refusing point-blank to cede an
inch of German soil, ask his interested auditors why they could not
indemnify themselves by seizing Belgium. But a grim smile of irony must
have lighted up his face when he pointed to a prey which would not
have to be ceded, but caught and overpowered by main strength. He was
tempting, probing, playing with the Frenchman, employing what he called
the “dilatory” method, because he wanted time to equip the new and
still imperfect Germany; and, considering their own dark schemes, can
it be said that they deserved better treatment?

Having direct knowledge of the steps taken by France in August, 1866,
the earliest recorded formal attempt to procure secret treaties on the
basis of territorial concessions, with what searching comment must
Bismarck have read the astonishing diplomatic circular, signed by M.
de Lavalette, and sent out on the 2nd of September, at the very time
when the dark proceedings just briefly sketched were in full swing! It
was a despatch framed for public consumption, and intended to present
the Imperial policy in a broad, generous, and philosophic light,
having no relation to the course which, either then or afterwards,
the French ruler followed. Louis Napoleon told the whole world that
France could not pursue “an ambiguous policy,” at the moment when
he was meditating the forcible acquisition of Belgium. The Emperor
painted himself as one who rejoiced in the change effected by the
war, perhaps because it shattered the treaties of 1815. Prussia, he
said, had insured the independence of Germany; and France need not see
in that fact any shadow cast over herself. “Proud of her admirable
unity, and indestructible nationality, she cannot oppose or condemn
the work of fusion going on in Germany.” By imitating, she took a step
nearer to, not farther from, France; and the Imperial philosopher
professed not to see why public opinion “should recognize adversaries,
instead of allies, in those nations which—enfranchised from a past
inimical to us—are summoned to new life.” But there was consolation
for those alarmed patriots who could read between the lines. Petty
states, they were assured, tended to disappear and give place to large
agglomerations; the Imperial Government had always understood that
annexations should only bring together kindred populations; and France,
especially, could desire only such additions as would not affect her
internal cohesiveness—sentences which, like finger-posts, pointed
to the acquisition of Belgium. The war of 1866, it was admitted,
showed the necessity of perfecting the organization of the army; yet
smooth things were predicted by the Imperial soothsayer, for, on the
whole, the horizon, in September, as scanned from Paris, seemed to
be clear of menacing possibilities, and a lasting peace was secure!
The despatch was, in fact, prepared and administered as a powerful
anodyne. By keeping the French moderately quiet, it suited the purposes
of Bismarck, who, well aware of the uneasiness which it covered, felt
quite equal to the task of coping with each fresh attempt to obtain
“compensation” as it might arise. Perhaps Louis Napoleon was sincere
when he dictated this interesting State paper, for it is not devoid of
some “fixed ideas” which he cherished; yet probably it may take rank
as a curious example of the subtle tactics which he often applied to
deceive himself, as well as to cajole his people and his neighbours. At
all events, his will, if he willed peace, did not endure for he soon
sanctioned and set in motion renewed projects, for he intended to push
forward the boundary posts of France.


As he found Prussia polite yet intractable, and prompt to use plain
language, if concessions were demanded, the Emperor Napoleon formed,
or was advised to form, an ingenious plan whereby he hoped to secure
Luxemburg. He entered into secret negotiations with Holland for the
purchase of the Duchy. The Queen of Holland, a Princess of the House of
Würtemburg, was a keen partizan of France. She it was, who, in July,
1866, uttered a cry of warning which reached the Tuileries. “It is the
dynasty,” she wrote, “which is menaced by a powerful Germany and a
powerful Italy, and the dynasty will have to suffer the consequences.
When Venetia was ceded, you should have succoured Austria, marched on
the Rhine, and imposed your own conditions. To permit the destruction
of Austria is more than a crime, it is a blunder.” Perhaps the notion
that Luxemburg could be acquired by purchase came from this zealous,
clear-sighted, and outspoken lady. Wherever it may have originated,
the scheme was hotly pursued, negotiations were opened at the Hague,
the usual Napoleonic operations were actually begun to obtain a
plébiscite from the Duchy. Count von Bismarck was discreetly sounded
by M. Benedetti, with the usual indefinite result, and the consent of
the King of Holland was obtained without much difficulty. At the same
time there was a strong current of opposition in the Dutch Government,
and Prince Henry, the Governor of Luxemburg, made no secret of his
hostility. The King himself was subject to recurring tremors caused by
his reflections on the possible action of the Prussian Court; and his
alarms were only mitigated or allayed from time to time by assurances
based, in reality, on M. Benedetti’s “impressions” that the Chancellor
was not unfavourable to the plan of cession. The truth is that
M. Benedetti did not accurately perceive the position which Bismarck
had taken up from the outset. It might be thus expressed: “Luxemburg
belongs to the King of Holland. It is his to keep or give away. If you
want the Duchy, why don’t you take it, and with it the consequences,
which it is for you to forecast.” The French Court and its Ministers
still laboured under the belief that they could manage the Berlin
Government, and they put their own interpretation on the vague, perhaps
tempting language of the Chancellor. At a certain moment, the fear,
always lurking in the King of Holland’s breast, gained the mastery,
and he caused the secret to be disclosed to the public. “He would do
nothing without the consent of the King of Prussia;” and by revealing
the negotiations he forced on a decision. The incident which terrified
the King of Holland was, no doubt, startling. M. Thiers had made a
strong anti-German speech in the Chamber, and M. Rouher had developed
his theory of the “trois tronçons,” or triple division of Germany.
The Chancellor, who had acquired full knowledge of French pretensions
from French Ministers, answered both statesmen by printing, in the
foreground of the “Official Gazette,” the treaty which gave King
William the control of the Bavarian army, in case of war. That fact
also produced a decisive effect upon the Dutch monarch, who saw in this
characteristic indirect retort to the French parliamentary display
a menace specially directed against himself. Hence the revelation
sufficed to thwart the bargain, then so far finished that signatures
were alone wanting to render it binding. The German people fired up
at the bare mention of such a proposal as the cession of a German
province. M. de Moustier, vexed and taken aback, called on Bismarck
to restrain the passions of his countrymen, and vainly urged the Dutch
monarch to sign the treaties. On the morning of the day when he was to
be questioned in the Reichstag, Bismarck asked Benedetti whether he
would authorize the Minister to state in the Chamber that the treaties
had been signed at the Hague. The Ambassador could not give the
required authority, seeing that although the King, under conditions,
had pledged his word to the Emperor, the formal act had not been done,
because Prussia had not answered the appeal for consent from the Hague.
On April 1, 1867, while Napoleon was opening the Exhibition in Paris,
Herr von Bennigsen put his famous question respecting the current
rumours about a treaty of cession. If the French were not prepared for
the fierce outburst of Teutonic fervour, still less could they relish
the question put by Herr von Bennigsen and the answer which it drew
from the Chancellor. The former described the Duchy as an “ancient
province of the collective Fatherland,” and the latter, while “taking
into account the French nation’s susceptibilities,” and giving a brief
history of the position in which Luxemburg stood towards Germany, made
his meaning clear to the French Court. “The confederate Governments,”
he said, “are of opinion that no foreign power will interfere with
the indisputable rights of German States and German populations. They
hope to be able to vindicate and protect those rights by peaceful
negotiations, without prejudicing the friendly relations which Germany
has hitherto entertained with her neighbours.” Napoleon and his
advisers were not likely to misconstrue language which, although it
lacked the directness of Von Bennigsen’s sentences, obviously meant
that the French scheme could not be worked out. Indeed, a few days
earlier, the Chancellor had used a significant phrase. Answering a
question in the Chamber, he said:—“If the previous speaker can manage
to induce the Grand Duke (of Luxemburg) to come into the North German
Federation, he will be able to say that he has called an European
question into existence; what more, Time alone can show.” The phrase
could hardly have escaped the notice of M. de Moustier, and coupled
with the second reply, already quoted, gave rise to indignation not
unmixed with alarm. At first the Emperor seemed determined not to
recede, and he took counsel with his generals, who could not give him
encouragement, because they knew that the Government was absolutely
without the means of making even a respectable defence against an
invasion. The period of suspense at the Tuileries did not endure
long. Shortly after the scene in the Reichstag, the Prussian Minister
at the Hague brought the matter to a crisis by a message which he
delivered to the Dutch Government. The King of the Netherlands, he is
reported to have said, can act as he pleases, but he is responsible
for what he may do. If he had believed that the meditated cession
was a guarantee of peace, it was the Minister’s duty to destroy the
illusion. “My Government,” he added, “advises him in the most formal
manner, not to give up Luxemburg to France.” The blow was fatal; the
King of course, took the advice to heart, and such a stroke was all
the more deeply felt in Paris because there the Emperor, who had
considered the end gained, now knew from Marshal Niel that it would
be madness to provoke a war. Yet, unless a loophole of escape could
be found, war was imminent. M. de Moustier discovered a safe and
dignified line of retreat. The Chancellor had referred to the treaty
of 1839 which governed the status of Luxemburg; M. de Moustier took
him at his word, and virtually brought the dispute within the purview
of Europe, by formally demanding that the Prussian garrison should
be withdrawn. He held that since the German forces were practically
centred in the hands of Prussia, Luxemburg, no longer a mere defensive
post, had become a menace to France. In this contention there was much
truth, seeing that the new Confederation of the North, and its allies
in the South, constituted a political and military entity far more
formidable and mobile than the old Bund. When the Chancellor refused
a demand, which his adversaries assert he was at one time prepared
to grant, the French Government, declaring that they had no wish
for other than friendly relations with Berlin, appealed to Europe.
The dispute ended in a compromise arranged as usual beforehand, and
settled at a conference held in London. The garrison was withdrawn,
the fortifications were to be razed, and the Duchy, like Belgium, was
thenceforth to be neutral ground, covered by a collective guarantee of
the Powers; but it still remained within the German Zollverein.

There were at work several influences which largely operated to
determine a peaceful issue. The French possessed no real army, and
the Emperor had only just begun to think about the needful military
organization on a new model; he had, besides, on hand an international
Exhibition, by which he set great store; and in addition a summons to
withdraw a garrison did not provide a _casus belli_ certain to secure
the support of public opinion. Nor did the Prussian Government consider
the moment opportune, or the question raised a suitable ground on
which to determine the inveterate cause of quarrel between France and
Germany. Upon this subject Dr. Busch has recorded some characteristic
observations made by the Chancellor, at Versailles, in 1870. “I
remember,” he said, “when I was at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, I
thought to myself ‘how would it have been by now, if we had fought out
the Luxemburg quarrel? Should I be in Paris, or the French in Berlin?’
We were not nearly as strong then as we are now. The Hanoverians and
Hessians of that day could not have supplied us with so many good
soldiers as to-day. As for the Schleswig-Holsteiners, who have lately
been fighting like lions, they had no army at all. The Saxon army was
broken up, and had to be entirely reconstructed. And there was but
little to be expected from the South Germans. What splendid fellows the
Würtembergers are now, quite magnificent! but in 1866 no soldier could
help laughing at them, as they marched into Frankfort like a civic
guard. Nor was all well with the Baden forces; the Grand Duke has done
a great deal for them since then. Doubtless public opinion throughout
Germany was with us, if we had chosen to make war about Luxemburg. But
that would not have made up for all those shortcomings.” It is plain,
from this retrospective comment, which comes in aid of other evidence,
that the great conflict, deferred to 1870, was nearly brought about in
1867, and that France was saved from utter rout, at that early period,
by the operation of a set of influences over which neither of the
principal actors had full control. The Franco-Dutch negotiation was
the last attempt which the Emperor Napoleon made to obtain territory
by direct or furtive diplomatic processes. In the early stages of the
risky business he had full confidence in his own ascendancy, not to say
“preponderance” in European councils. He was rudely undeceived. Herr
von Bismarck had tempted him with all kinds of suggestions, but the
Emperor himself, his Ministers and Ambassadors had been content to take
the “impressions,” which they derived from confidential conversations,
for definite, binding promises. One French agent correctly described
the fact when he said that “Herr von Bismarck is ready, not to offer
us compensations, but to allow us to take them;” he might have added,
“if we can and at our own risk.” There is no published evidence that
the Prussian statesman ever offered to cede Luxemburg, or sanction
the annexation of Belgium, or preclude himself from adopting, at
any conjuncture, the line which appeared most accordant with German
interests. On the contrary, long after the interviews at Biarritz and
in Paris, and the battle of Sadowa, Napoleon III., to use his own
terms, wanted, at least, “une certitude relative” that the Prussian
Government would not interpose any obstacle in the way of French
“aggrandizement” in the North. He asked, not for words, but an act
which he could never obtain; and the Luxemburg incident proved to
him conclusively that nothing could be gained by making demands on
the Court of Prussia. In 1867 and afterwards in November, 1870,
according to Dr. Busch, Bismarck described with his usual frankness the
hesitation of the Emperor. He had not understood his advantages, in
1866, when he might have done a good business, although not on German
soil, was the earlier commentary. The later was more illuminative.
“In the summer of 1866,” said Bismarck, “Napoleon had not the pluck
to do what was the right thing from his point of view. He ought—well,
he ought to have taken possession of the subject of Benedetti’s
proposal [Belgium], when we were marching against the Austrians, and
have held it in pawn for whatever might happen. At that time we could
not stop him and it was not likely that England would attack him—at
least he might have waited to see.” On this it may be observed that
the influence of Lord Cowley and Lord Clarendon would probably have
sufficed to turn him from such a plan had it entered into the Emperor’s
mind; and had he delivered the blow, in defiance of their protests,
or without consulting them, England, at that time, would have been
enraged at the treachery, and would have certainly occupied Antwerp.
The Emperor was a man who caressed audacious projects which he had not
always the nerve and courage to carry out. What is more astonishing, he
did not or could not provide the means essential to the accomplishment
of his desires. Thus the precedent afforded by his conduct in 1866 was
followed in 1867, and in each case the result was the same—vexatious

                       _An Interlude of Peace._

The war-clouds sank below the horizon, the Paris Exhibition was duly
opened, sovereigns and princes, statesmen and generals, journeyed to
the French capital, and the Court of the Tuileries gave itself up to
amusement, gaiety, and dissipation, neglecting nothing which could give
pleasure to its illustrious guests. It was the last hour of splendour,
the sunset of the Empire. Yet the brilliant scenes, which followed each
other day by day, were even then flecked with dark shades. If politics
were evaded or ignored in the palace, they were not absent from the
highways. Polish hatred found vent in the attempt of Berezowski to slay
the unfortunate Emperor Alexander II., and M. Floquet shouted in his
ear as he passed through the Courts of Justice, “Vive la Pologne!” The
crime and the insult augured ill for the future of that Franco-Russian
alliance which Charles X. endeavoured to establish and certain French
statesmen have always sighed for. M. Hansen records a sharp observation
made by Prince Gortchakoff during the Polish insurrection which the
Western Powers regarded with friendly eyes. The Vice-Chancellor held
that France and Russia were natural allies, because their interests
were the same. “If the Emperor Napoleon will not admit it,” he roughly
said, “so much the worse for him. Governments vanish, nations remain.”
Still, in 1867, he did not find the nation more favourable than the
Government had been in 1864. Twenty years later, although Russia had
become less unpopular, at least with the politicians, and a yearning
for a Russian alliance had gathered strength, the ultras proved how
little they understood some conditions essential to its gratification
by clamoring for the pardon and liberation of Berezowski! The Prussian
King and Queen were not exposed to any outrage, and the Parisians gazed
with curiosity upon Bismarck and Moltke, whom they admired, and had
not yet learned to detest; but the sparkling and joyful assemblies,
although the actors, on both sides, were doubtless sincere at the
time, nevertheless suggests a famous incident in the French Revolution
which figures on historical pages as “le baiser de l’amourette.” And
underneath the shining surface were concealed gnawing anxieties and
fears. The Emperor Napoleon had dreamed that he could found a Mexican
empire, and he had induced the Austrian Archduke Maximilian to accept
at his hands an Imperial crown. The enterprise, which was pushed on by
French troops, not only failed, but irritated England, who had been
deceived, and offended the United States, whose Government, victors in
a civil war, would not tolerate the establishment of the “Latin race”
in the centre of the huge continent. Not only had it become necessary
to recall the troops, but to bear a still deeper misfortune—if the
word may be applied to the consequences of a reckless and unscrupulous
adventure. It was while opening the Exhibition that the earliest hints
reached the Emperor of an event which dealt him a heavy blow; and,
on the eve of the day fixed for the distribution of prizes to the
competitors he had assembled, came the confirmation of the dreaded
intelligence, whispered weeks before. The gallant Archduke and Emperor
Maximilian, who had fallen into the hands of the triumphant and
implacable Mexicans, had been tried and shot, a deed which his French
patron was powerless to avenge.

                       _The Salzburg Interview._

The tragedy of Quaretaro reacted upon European politics, and
incidentally emphasized afresh the perennial antagonism between France
and Germany. Still smarting from the wounds of 1866, Austria hungered
for an ally, and the Saxon Count von Beust, whom the Emperor Francis
Joseph had made his Chancellor, was eager to try one more fall with
Count von Bismarck. Swayed by political reasons, the Austrian Emperor
not only did not resent the death of his brother, but was even willing
to welcome as his guest Louis Napoleon, who had so successfully seduced
the Archduke by dangling before him the bait of an Imperial crown. The
French Emperor and his Empress, therefore, travelled in state through
South Germany to Salzburg, where they met their Austrian hosts. The
occasion was, nominally, one of condolence and mourning, and the vain
regrets on both sides were doubtless genuine. Yet it so chanced that
the days spent in the lovely scenery of Salzburg were given up to gay
mirth and feasting—not to sorrow and gloom; and that the irrepressible
spirit of politics intruded on the brilliant company gathered round
an open grave. Both emperors felt aggrieved; one by the loss of his
high estate in Germany and his Italian provinces, the other because
his demand for the Rhenish territory had been rejected, and he had not
been allowed to take Belgium or buy Luxemburg. The common enemy was
Prussia, who had worsted Austria in battle, and France in diplomacy
and at Salzburg, perhaps earlier, the ground plans were sketched for
an edifice which the architects trusted might be built up sufficiently
large and strong to contain, at least, two allies. The sketch was
vague, yet it was definite enough at least to reveal the designs of the
draughtsmen; and the Emperors returned home still in jubilation.

Perhaps the Emperor Napoleon suffered some pangs of disappointment.
“Austria was his last card,” says M. Rothan, who, from the French
standpoint, has so keenly studied the period preceding the war of
1870. He wanted an offensive and defensive alliance, which Austria
would not accord, Count von Beust fearing that so grave a fact would
never escape the lynx-eyes of Bismarck, who, when it came to his
knowledge, would not fail to provoke a war before either ally had
fully, or even partially, completed his military preparations, then
so much in arrear. Not only were they backward in 1867, but Austria,
at all events, was still unprovided in 1870. The Archduke Albrecht,
who visited Paris during the month of February of that year, impressed
the fact on the Emperor Napoleon. “The story runs,” says M. Rothan,
“that, after having quitted the study of his Majesty, the Archduke
returned, and; through the half-opened door, exclaimed, ’sire, above
all things do not forget, whatever may happen, that we shall not be in
a fit state to fall into line before a year.’” Hence, it may well be
that the Austrian Chancellor was even then determined, in case of a
conflict, to shape his policy in accordance with the first victories;
and that the meditations of the Emperor Napoleon, as he re-crossed the
Rhine, were tinged with bitter reflections on his political isolation.
A little later, when he knew that Bismarck had discovered the drift
of the conversation at Salzburg, his anxieties must have become more
poignant. That Chancellor, who had secured afresh the goodwill of
Russia, and beheld with satisfaction the effect of the Imperial display
on Germany, enlarged, in a circular despatch, on the proof thus once
more afforded that German national feeling could not endure “the mere
notion” of “foreign tutelage” where the interests of the Fatherland
were concerned. Germany had a right to mould her own fortunes and
frame her own constitution. So that, as Von Buest had foreseen, the
dreaded Chancellor had promptly turned to account even the colloquies
of Salzburg. “France, with one hand,” he said, “presents us with
soothing notes, and with the other permits us to see the point of her
sword.” There was no open quarrel between the two antagonists, but each
suspected and closely watched the other. M. Rothan, himself a vigilant
and zealous official, furnishes an amusing example. In November, 1866,
he learned from “a Foreign minister accredited to a South German
Court,” what was to him the appalling fact that the Imperial work
of mediation at Nikolsburg had been counteracted, “even before it
had been sanctioned by the Treaty of Prague.” He referred to the now
famous military treaties. M. de X―, his informant, he says, obtained
his knowledge of the secret by a sort of inquisitorial method, “a la
façon d’un juge d’instruction,” that is, he affirmed the existence
of the documents, and thus extorted confessions, express or implied.
“The Bavarian Foreign Minister,” he said, blushed; “the Minister of
Würtemberg was confused; the Minister of Baden did not deny it, and
the Minister of Hesse avowed everything.” Further, M. de X― asserted
that, when it was no longer necessary to keep France in good humour,
Prussia would enforce the clauses which gave her supreme command, and
would bring the Southern armies into harmony with her own organization.
Apparently, this authentic information did not obtain a ready belief
in the autumn of 1866; but it alarmed and disturbed the French Court,
and the public confirmation of the unwelcome report, less than a year
afterwards, visible to all men in the actual re-organization of the
Southern armies, together with the failure to purchase Luxemburg, still
further increased the suspicion, deepened the alarm, and aroused the
indignation of the Emperor at the slights inflicted on France, who, as
the “predominant” Continental power and the “vanguard of civilization,”
always considered that she ought to have her own way.

                      _The Emperor seeks Allies._

In the beginning of 1868 the principal parties were engaged in
preparing for a conflict which each considered to be inevitable;
and the other Powers, great and small, more or less concerned, were
agitated by hopes and fears. Russia desired to recover her freedom
of movement in the East, and especially to throw off what Prince
Gortchakoff called his “robe de Nessus,” the clause in the treaty
of Paris which declared the Euxine to be a neutral sea. Austria
aimed at the restoration of her authority in Germany, and was not
yet convinced that her path lay eastward. Italy had many longings,
but her pressing necessity was to seat herself in the capital of the
Cæsars and the Popes, once again occupied by the French, who had
re-entered the Papal States to expel the Garibaldians. It was in the
skirmish at Mentana that the new breech-loading rifle, the Chassepot,
“wrought miracles,” according to General de Failly, and established
its superiority over the “needle gun.” Holland, Belgium, and even
Switzerland were troubled by the uncertain prospect which the Imperial
theory of “large agglomerations” had laid bare; Spain was in the
throes of a revolutionary convulsion; and England—she had just mended
her constitution, and had begun to look on Continental politics with
relative indifference, except in so far as they affected the fortunes
of “parties,” and might be used strategically as a means of gaining
or holding fast the possession of power. Yet so strained were the
relations of France and Prussia that General von Moltke actually
framed, in the spring of 1868, the plan of campaign which he literally
carried out in 1870—a fact implying that even then he considered
that his Government was sufficiently prepared to encounter the new
and imperfectly developed scheme of army organization and armament
originally devised by the Emperor and Marshal Niel, and modified
to satisfy the objections and suspicions raised in a deferential
Senate and an obliging Chamber of Deputies. For while the Opposition
distrusted the Emperor, the whole body shrank from the sacrifices
which Cæsar and his Minister of War considered necessary to the safety
of the State from a defensive, and absolutely indispensable from an
offensive point of view. The prime actors in the drama expressed a love
of peace, perhaps with equal sincerity: but as Germany thirsted for
unity, all the more because France, true to her traditional policy,
forbad it, the love so loudly avowed could not be gratified unless
Germany submitted, or France ceased to dictate. “I did not share the
opinion of those politicians,” said Bismarck in July, 1870, “who
advised me not to do all I could to avoid war with France because it
was inevitable. Nobody,” he added, “can exactly foresee the purposes
of Divine Providence in the future; and I regard even a victorious
war as an evil from which statesmanship should strive to preserve
nations. I could not exclude from my calculations the possibility that
chances might accrue in France’s constitution and policy which might
avert the necessity of war from two great neighbour races—a hope in
connection with which every postponement of a rupture was so much to
the good.” The language is a little obscure, but the meaning will be
grasped when it is remembered that his remark on the “chances” referred
to the probable grant of increased freedom to the French Parliament,
which he thought would fetter the Court and thwart the politicians.
That forecast was not justified by the event, since it was the
partially-liberated Chamber and the Liberal Ministry which so hastily
sanctioned the declaration of war. The truth is, however, that each
rival nationality inherited the liabilities contracted in the past. The
French had been accustomed for more than two hundred years to meddle
directly in Germany and find there allies, either against Austria,
Prussia, or England; and the habit of centuries had been more than
confirmed by the colossal raids, victories, and annexations of
Napoleon I. A Germany which should escape from French control and
reverse, by its own energetic action the policy of Henri IV.,
Richelieu, Louis XIV., his degenerate grandson, Louis XV, and of the
great Napoleon himself, was an affront to French pride, and could not
be patiently endured. The opposing forces which had grown up were so
strong that the wit of man was unable to keep them asunder; and all the
control over the issue left to kings and statesmen was restricted to
the fabrication of means wherewith to deliver or sustain the shock, and
the choice of the hour, if such choice were allowed.

To that end the adversaries had, indeed, applied themselves after the
last French failure to obtain any material compensation, not even what
M. Rouher called such a rag of territory as Luxemburg. Thenceforth,
keeping an eye on Prussia, the French Government sought to gain over
Austria and Italy, and form a defensive alliance which, at the fitting
moment, might be converted into an offensive alliance strong enough to
prevent the accomplishment of German unity, win campaigns, and enable
each confederate to grasp the reward which he desired. Carried on
during more than two years, the negotiations never got beyond a kind
of vague preliminary understanding which signified the willingness of
the three Courts to reach a definite, formal treaty if they could.
But obstacles always arose when the vital questions lying at the
root of the business had to be solved. Italy demanded and Austria
was willing that she should have Rome. To that France steadfastly
demurred, even down to the last moment, as will presently be seen.
Austria also, besides being unready, in a military sense, was visited
by the chronic fear that, if she plunged into war against Germany,
Russia would at once break into her provinces from Lithuania and the
Polish Quadrilateral, and settle the heavy account opened when Prince
Schwarzenberg displayed his “immense ingratitude” during the Crimean
war. Nor was the Court of Vienna exempt from apprehensions growing out
of the possible, even probable conduct of half-reconciled Hungary.
Count von Beust also deluded himself with the notion that the Prussian
treaties with the South German States were mere “rags of paper,” and
nourished the fond belief, except when he had a lucid interval, that
the South German people would not fight for the Fatherland. Waiting on
Providence, the would-be confederates, at the same time, counted on
the fortune of war, arguing that France was certain to win at first,
and that one victory under the tricolour would bring the inchoate
alliance instantly to maturity, and the armies it controlled into the
field. Based on such conjectural foundations, and opposed by such solid
obstacles, the grand design was doomed to fail; indeed it never got
nearer to completion than an exchange of letters by the Sovereigns;
grounded on the very eve, and went to pieces on the day of battle.

Diverted from Luxemburg, the French Government did not relax its
efforts to pave the way for the annexation of Belgium. During the
spring and summer of 1869 a successful effort was made to secure
political, commercial, and strategic advantages by obtaining a certain
control over the Belgian railways, notably the line which runs
from Luxemburg to Liège, and thence to the North Sea ports. These
proceedings, of course, did not escape notice at Berlin, where the ends
in view were perfectly appreciated; but they form only a petty incident
in the great struggle, and can only be mentioned with brevity in order
to indicate its growth. It may be stated here that, in 1873, the German
Chancellor reversed the process, and secured for his Government the
control of the Luxemburg lines. Another railway question which cropped
up in May, 1870, was the famous railway which, by means of an ingenious
tunnel within the Alps near St. Gothard, placed Germany in direct
communication with Italy through neutral territory. Count von Bismarck
openly said it was a Prussian interest, and the Northern Confederation
paid a part of the cost, which aroused indignation in France. At one
moment it seemed possible that this enterprise would serve as a _casus
belli_; but the French Government, after careful deliberation, decided,
in June, 1870, that they could not reasonably oppose the project,
although it certainly was regarded at the Foreign Office in Paris as
a further proof of German antagonism, and a sort of bribe tendered to
Italy. Since the beginning of the year France had been in the enjoyment
of certain Liberal concessions made by the Emperor, and confirmed, in
May, by the famous “plébiscite,” which gave him a majority of more
than five millions. Now, although the Emperor’s reflections on this
triumphant result of an appeal to universal suffrage were embittered
by the knowledge that large numbers of soldiers had helped to swell
the million and a half of Frenchmen who voted “No,” still the Foreign
Minister and his agents, according to M. Ollivier, were so elated
that they exclaimed with pride, “Henceforth, all negotiations are
easy to the Government,” since the world thoroughly understood that,
for France, peace would never mean “complaisance or effacement.” Yet
Prince Napoleon, in his brief sketch of these critical months, says
plainly that the Government concerned itself less with foreseeing the
political complications which might lead up to war, than with the best
mode of proceeding when war arrived. So true is this, that a General
was sent to Vienna to discuss the bases of a campaign with the Austrian
War Office. But in the spring of 1870 fortune seemed to smile on
official France; and on the last day of June M. Ollivier, instructed
by the Foreign Minister, considered himself authorized to boast before
the admiring Deputies that the peace of Europe had never been less
in danger than it was at the moment when he delivered his optimistic
declaration. In England, also, the Foreign Secretary could not discern
“a cloud in the sky.”

                    _The Hohenzollern Candidature._

One week later, not only M. Ollivier and Lord Granville, but Europe,
nay, the whole world, saw plainly enough the signs and portents
of discord and convulsion. On the 3rd of July the Duc de Gramont
learned from the French Minister at Madrid that Prince Leopold of
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, with his own full consent, had been selected
as a candidate for the vacant throne of Spain, and that, at no
distant date, the Cortes would be formally requested to elect him.
The French Government quivered with indignation, and the political
atmosphere of Paris became hot with rage. Not that the former were
unfamiliar with the suggestion. It had been made in 1869, considered,
and apparently abandoned. Indeed, the Emperor himself had, at one
time, when he failed to obtain the Rhenish provinces, proposed that
they should be formed into a State to be ruled by the King of Saxony,
and at another, that the Sovereign should be the Hereditary Prince
of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen; the very Prince put forward by Marshal
Prim. He had been grievously hampered and perplexed in the choice of
a Sovereign of Spain by some Powers, especially by France; but now
the Imperial Government turned the whole tide of its resentment, not
upon Madrid, but Berlin, which, it was assumed, aimed at establishing
an enemy to France beyond the Pyrenees. Explanations were demanded
directly from the Prussian Government, but M. Le Sourd, the chargé
d’affaires, could extract no other answer than this—that the Prussian
Government knew nothing about the matter. The Duc de Gramont, who
had succeeded Lavalette, in May, as Minister for Foreign Affairs,
regarded the statement as a subterfuge, and forthwith determined to
fasten on the King a responsibility which he could not fasten on the
Government. The Duc de Gramont was not a wise counsellor; he was deep
in negotiations having for their object an offensive and defensive
alliance against Prussia, and he was hardly less moved by a noisy
external opinion than by his own political passions. He ordered M.
Benedetti, who had only just sought repose at Wildbad, to betake
himself at once to Ems, whither King William, according to custom,
had repaired to drink the waters. The French Ambassador reached the
pleasant village on the Lahn late at night on the 8th of July, and the
next day began a series of interviews with the King, which take rank
among the most curious examples of diplomacy recorded in history.

Before the ambassador could commence his singular task, an event
had occurred in Paris which seemed to render a war unavoidable. The
politicians of the French capital had become feverish with excitement.
Not only did a species of delirium afflict the immediate advisers of
the Emperor, but the band of expectants, who, more ardent Imperialists
than he was, still believed that nothing could withstand the French
army; while the opposition, loving France not less, but what they
called liberty more, were eager to take advantage of an incident which
seemed likely to throw discredit on the Bonapartes. Wisdom would have
prevented, but party tactics demanded a movement in the Chamber which
took the innocent-looking form of an inquiry. The Government dreaded,
yet could not evade, the ordeal, and M. Cochery put his question on the
6th of July. Had the Duc de Gramont been a clever Minister, or had he
represented a Government strongly rooted in the national respect and
affection, he would have been able to deliver a colourless response, if
he could not have based a refusal to answer upon public grounds. The
truth is, he was carried off his feet by the sudden storm which raged
through the journals and society, and it may be surmised that, even
then, despite the plébiscite, fears for the stability of the dynasty
had no small share in determining his conduct. Yet, it must be stated,
that he was only one of the Council of Ministers who sanctioned the use
of language which read, and still reads, like an indirect declaration
of war. After expressing sympathy with Spain, and asserting, what
was not true, that the Imperial Government had observed a strict
neutrality with regard to the several candidates for the crown, he
struck a note of defiance: “We do not believe,” he exclaimed, “that
respect for the rights of a neighbouring people obliges us to endure
that a foreign State, by placing one of its princes on the throne of
Charles V., should be able to derange, to our injury, the balance of
power in Europe, and to imperil the interests and honour of France.”
The pacific sentences uttered by M. Ollivier on this memorable occasion
were forgotten; the trumpet-blast of the Duc de Gramont rang through
the world, and still rings in the memory. Prussia was not named by
the Minister, but everyone beyond the Rhine knew who was meant by
the “German people,” and a “foreign Power;” while, as Benedetti has
stated in a private despatch to Gramont, the King deeply felt it as a

Not the least impressive characteristic of these proceedings is the
hot haste in which they hurried along. M. Benedetti neither in that
respect nor in the swiftness and doggedness which he imparted to the
negotiations, is to blame. The impulse and the orders came from Paris;
he somewhat tempered the first, but he obeyed the second with zeal,
and, without overstepping the limits of propriety in the form, he
did not spare the King in the substance of his demands. Nor, in the
first instance, were they other than those permitted by diplomatic
precedent; afterwards they certainly exceeded these limits. The first
was that the King himself should press Prince Leopold to withdraw his
consent: indeed, direct him so to do. The answer was that, as King, he
had nothing to do with the business; that as head of the Hohenzollern
family he had been consulted, and had not encouraged or opposed the
wish of the Prince to accept the proffered crown; that he would still
leave him entire freedom to act as he pleased, but that his Majesty
would communicate with Prince Antoine, the father of Prince Leopold,
and learn his opinion. With this reply, unable to resist the plea for
delay, the ambassador had perforce to be content. Not so the Imperial
Government. The Duc de Gramont sent telegram on telegram to Ems, urging
Benedetti to transmit an explicit answer from the King, saying that
he had ordered Prince Leopold to give up the project, and alleging,
as a reason for haste, that the French could not wait longer, since
Prussia might anticipate them by calling out the army. The ambassador,
to check this hurry, prudently warned his principals, saying, that
if they ostentatiously prepared for war, then the calamity would be
inevitable. “If the King,” wrote De Gramont, on the 10th of July,
“will not advise the Prince to renounce his design—well, it is war
at once, and in a few days we shall be on the Rhine.” And so on from
hour to hour. A little wearied, perhaps, by the pertinacity of the
ambassador, and nettled by the attempt to fix on him the responsibility
for the Spanish scheme, the King at length said that he looked every
moment for an answer from Sigmaringen, which he would transmit without
delay. It is impossible, in a few sentences, to give the least idea
of the terrier-like obstinacy displayed by M. Benedetti in attacking
the King. Indeed, it grew to be almost a persecution, so thoroughly
did he obey his importunate instructions. At length the King was able
to say that Prince Antoine’s answer would arrive on the 13th, and the
ambassador felt sure of a qualified success, inasmuch as he would
obtain the Prince’s renunciation, sanctioned by King William. But,
while he was writing his despatch, a new source of vexation sprang up
in Paris—the Spanish Ambassador, Señor Olozaga, announced to the Duc
de Gramont the fact that Prince Antoine, on behalf of his son, had
notified at Madrid the withdrawal of his pretensions to the crown. It
was reasonably assumed that, having attained the object ostensibly
sought, the French Government would be well content with a diplomatic
victory so decisive, and would allow M. Benedetti to rest once more at
Wildbad. He himself held stoutly that the “satisfaction” accorded to
the wounded interests and honour of France was not insufficient. The
Emperor and the Duc de Gramont thought otherwise, because, as yet, no
positive defeat had been inflicted, personally, upon King William. The
Foreign Minister, therefore, obeying precise instructions from St.
Cloud, directed Benedetti to see the King at once, and demand from him
a plain declaration that he would not, at any future time, sanction
any similar proposal coming from Prince Leopold. The Duc de Gramont’s
mind was so constructed that, at least a year afterwards, he did not
regard this demand as an ultimatum! Yet how could the King, and still
more Bismarck, take it in any other light? Early on the 13th the
King, who saw the ambassador in the public garden, advanced to meet
him, and it was there that he refused, point blank, Louis Napoleon’s
preposterous and uncalled-for request, saying that he neither could nor
would bind himself in an engagement without limit of time, and applying
to every case; but that he should reserve his right to act according
to circumstances. King William brought this interview to a speedy
close, and M. Benedetti saw him no more except at the railway station
when he started for Coblenz. Persistency had reached and stepped over
the limits of the endurable, and King William could not do more than
send an aide-de-camp with a courteous message, giving M. Benedetti
authority to say officially that Prince Leopold’s recent resolution
had his Majesty’s approval. During the day the ambassador repeated,
unsuccessfully, his request for another audience; and this dramatic
episode ended on the 13th with the departure of the King, who had
pushed courtesy to its utmost bounds.

During that eventful 13th of July Count Bismarck, recently arrived in
Berlin from Pomerania, had seen and had spoken to Lord Augustus Loftus
in language which plainly showed how steadfastly he kept his grip on
the real question, which was that France sought to gain an advantage
over “Prussia,” as some kind of compensation for Königgrätz. The Duc
de Gramont also conversed with Lord Lyons in Paris, and induced him to
set in motion Lord Granville, from whose ingenious brain came forth a
plausible compromise wholly unsuitable to the exigency, and promptly
rejected at Berlin, but having an air of fairness which made it look
well in the pages of a Blue Book. It was a last effort on the part of
diplomacy, and served well enough to represent statesmanship as it
was understood by the Cabinet to which Lord Granville belonged. On
the evening of that day Count Bismarck entertained at dinner General
von Moltke and General von Roon; and the host read aloud to them a
telegram from Ems, giving an account of what had occurred, and the
royal authority to make the story public. “Both Generals,” writes Dr.
Moritz Busch, “regarded the situation as still peaceful. The Chancellor
observed—that would depend a good deal upon the tone and contents of
the publication he had just been authorized to make. In the presence of
his two guests he then put together some extracts from the telegram,
which were forthwith despatched to all the Prussian Legations abroad,
and to the Berlin newspapers in the following form:—‘Telegram from
Ems, July 13th, 1870. When the intelligence of the Hereditary Prince
of Hohenzollern’s renunciation was communicated by the Spanish to
the French Government, the French Ambassador demanded of His Majesty
the King, at Ems, that the latter should authorize him to telegraph
to Paris that His Majesty would pledge himself for all time to come
never again to give his consent, should the Hohenzollerns hark back to
their candidature. Upon this His Majesty refused to receive the French
Ambassador again, and sent the aide-de-camp in attendance to tell him
that His Majesty had nothing further to communicate to the Ambassador.’”

                     *   *   *   *   *

Substantially, it was the grotesque pile of misrepresentation
built up on this blunt telegram—M. Benedetti read it next morning
in the “Cologne Gazette,” and took no exception whatever to the
brief and exact narrative it contained—which set the Parisians on
fire. Travestied in many ways by calculating politicians, as well as
gossips, the message became a “Note,” or a “despatch,” imputing the
extreme of intentional rudeness to King William, and imposing the
depth of humiliation, publicly inflicted, upon France through her
representative, who, all the time, was not only unconscious of any
insult, but emphatic in his acknowledgments of the King’s courtesy,
kindness, and patience. Probably Count Bismarck wrote his telegram for
Germany, but its effect in satisfying the Fatherland, was not greater
than its influence upon the fiery French, who never read the text until
months afterwards, and in July, 1870, were set a-flame by the distorted
versions freely supplied by rumour’s forked tongue.

               _The French Government and the Chamber._

War was now plainly inevitable, yet the decisive word still rested
with the Imperial Government. In Paris there were two currents running
strongly in opposite ways, and, for a moment, it seemed possible that
the tide which made for peace would overpower the surging stream which
drove onwards towards war. More than one-half the Ministry believed,
and some, M. Ollivier for one, said that the retreat of Prince Leopold,
with the consent of the King, a great diplomatic victory for France,
was enough, and had, indeed, brought the quarrel to an end. At midday,
on the 13th, M. Robert Mitchell, meeting M. Paul de Cassagnac, said,
“I have just left Ollivier, and, thank God, peace is secured.” “My
father,” was the reply, “has just quitted the Emperor; war is resolved
on.” The statement was not then exact, but it may be accepted as a
forecast. For, in truth, it was only at noon the next day that the
Ministers assembled in council at the Tuileries to answer the momentous
question which so profoundly agitated their minds. They sat six
hours; they were divided in opinion; yet, although Marshal Lebœuf was
authorized to call out the reserves—he had threatened to resign unless
that were done—the Ministers separated with the understanding that a
peaceful line of action should be adopted, based on a demand for a
Congress of the Powers to sanction the principle that no member of any
reigning house should accept a foreign throne. The Duc de Gramont’s
brief account of this notable Council shows that the hankering after
war was powerful therein; since he says that “the Government decided,
not without hesitation, but influenced by a love of peace, to propose
this pacific solution.” But all, or some of the Ministers, and still
more the Emperor, stood in dread of two things: they were alarmed lest
the “dynasty” should be injured by a course which bore the semblance
of a forced retreat, and they could not rely with confidence on the
sober opinion of the Chambers. The Court war-party operated upon the
Senators and Deputies through M. Clément Duvernois, a schemer, and M.
Jérôme David, by birth and training a fanatical Bonapartist, the second
accentuating the questions of the first, and giving to his own language
a substance which made retreat almost impossible. Both these men had
a double object. They intended to extort a declaration of war and, at
the same time, expel Emile Ollivier, together with what they called the
Parliamentary element, from the Ministry. The energetic, aggressive
and relentless group were really the mouthpieces of the Emperor and
Empress, and in a less degree of M. Rouher, who had been deposed by the
new Imperial constitution, and of the Duc de Gramont, who all through
the business desired to secure a prolongation of peace, solely because
it would give him time to ripen the projects of alliance with Austria
and Italy, and also to make war, lest “la Prusse,” aware of his design,
should choose her own hour for battle. It so chanced that Marshal
Lebœuf, after despatching the orders calling out the reserves, received
a note from the Emperor, which, he says, seemed to suggest a regret
at the decision adopted by the Council; and thinking, innocent man,
that some constitutional scruples had sprung up in the Imperial mind,
the Marshal begged that the Ministers might be summoned once more.
That night they met again, talked for an hour, and had nearly resolved
that the mobilization of the army should be deferred, when papers were
placed in the hands of the Duc de Gramont. The exact contents of these
documents have not been described, but they seemed to have contained
some report of language held by Count Bismarck which exasperated the
war party; and, in an instant, the Council resolved on war. That same
night, M. Robert Mitchell, walking in the garden of the Foreign Office,
asked M. Ollivier why he did not resign? The Minister gave a host of
plausible reasons having no real weight; adding these prophetic words:
“Whatever happens, I am sacrificed; for the war will sweep away the
régime to which I have attached my name. If we are beaten, God protect
France! If we are victorious, God protect our Liberties!”

So that, having a clear perception of the future, this Minister,
at least, met the Chambers on the morrow. The exciting events of
the past week, imperfectly understood and carelessly or purposely
misrepresented, had aroused a tempest of passion in Paris and France,
which, by its violence and uproar, overpowered, but could not wholly
silence, the voices of sagacity and sober judgment. The Senate was
unanimous for war. In the Chamber the Opposition waged courageously
a desperate contest, so desperate from the outset, that even M.
Thiers, perhaps because he told unpleasant truths, could not command
an unbroken hearing, while M. Gambetta only secured one by making a
rare display of forensic tact, basing himself on Parliamentary ground,
and tempering his appeal for “more light” with evidences of his
indisputable patriotism. The Duc de Gramont favoured the Senators with
a version of the facts, which was neither complete nor candid. M. Emile
Ollivier allowed an unhappy phrase to escape from his lips—he went
into the war “_à cœur leger_.” A committee was appointed to inspect
the diplomatic documents on which the Court relied; it was easily
satisfied, and late in the night, sustained by a large majority, the
policy of the Government was amply sanctioned.

Perhaps a sentence spoken by M. Guyot Montpayroux best illustrates
the predominant feeling. “Prussia,” he said, “has forgotten the
France of Jena, and the fact must be recalled to her memory.” Thus
was war declared by these infuriated legislators on the night of
July 15th. M. Thiers, who desired a war with Prussia “at the proper
time,” has left on record his judgment that the hour then selected
was “detestably ill-chosen.” Yet even he and M. Gambetta were both
anxious that “satisfaction” should be obtained for Sadowa; while
the thought which animated the Court is admirably expressed in the
phrase imputed to the Empress who, pointing to the Prince Imperial,
said, “This child will never reign unless we repair the misfortunes
of Sadowa.” Such was the ceaseless refrain. The word haunted French
imaginations incessantly, and it was the pivot on which the Imperial
policy revolved, and it exercised a spell scarcely less powerful and
disastrous upon Monarchists like M. Thiers, and Republicans like
Gambetta and Jules Favre. Still, it may be said that France was
divided in opinion. Consulted through the Prefects, only sixteen
departments were for war; no fewer than thirty-four were adverse, and
the remainder could not be said to hold with the one or the other.
Nor should it be overlooked that these estimates of popular feeling
were transmitted by functionaries who have always a wish to please
the superior Powers. Germany, on the other hand, was united as it had
never been since 1813. King William was applauded everywhere. When he
reached Berlin on the evening of the 15th, he was met at the railway
station by the Crown Prince, Count von Bismarck, General von Moltke,
and General von Roon. There the decision was formally taken to accept
the challenge, the fact was repeated to the crowd who had assembled,
and whose shouts were loud, deep, and prolonged; and that same night
went forth the brief telegraphic orders which from one centre touched
a thousand springs, and called into instant being an army, perfectly
organized, equipped, trained and supplied. So that when Baron Wimpfen,
a secretary of legation, entered Berlin on the 19th of July, and handed
to M. Le Sourd the French declaration of war—the sole official document
on the subject received by Prussia, as Von Moltke bluntly remarks—that
work had already begun which finished in little more than a fortnight,
enabled the King to break into France at the head of more than three
hundred thousand soldiers.

Only one word more need be said on this subject—the causes of the
war. Clearing away the diplomatic mist which hides the realities,
the student will discover two deadly opposites; on one side the
determination of France to insist on a right of meddling with internal
German affairs, and even of prescribing the form or forms which the
national aggregate should assume; on the other, the fixed resolve of
the German people that the French should no longer dictate or pretend
to dictate beyond the Rhine, that an end should be put to the policy
of seeking political profits by fomenting the spirit of discord in
the petty German Courts; and that, if possible, by dint of “Kraft
und Muth,” Germany should secure palpable safeguards against French
invasions, and resume possession of the strongholds and dependent
territories which were acquired, in times of adversity and disunion,
by Louis XIV. Thus, the causes of war were deeply rooted in essential
facts. The moment to be chosen, if it can be said to have been chosen,
was for statesmen to decide. The Imperial Government, down to the last
hour, sought to form a combination adverse to Prussia, intending to
wage war at its own time. Prussia refused to be made the victim of a
triple alliance, and taking a fair advantage of the imperious conduct
of the French Court, seized the golden opportunity, promptly answered
the declaration of war, and struck down the French Empire before its
hesitating and unprepared allies could move a finger to avert a defeat
which neither attempted, nor dared attempt to repair. Austria, the
unready, stood in fear of Russia: Italy, the ambitious, demanded the
right to enter Rome. “We can grant nothing of the kind,” said the
over-confident Duc de Gramont, so late as July 30. “If Italy will not
march,” he exclaimed, “let her sit still.” Abundant evidence exists
to prove that war between France and Germany was solely a question of
time, and Prussia cannot be blamed justly for selecting or seizing the
hour most suitable to her and least suitable to her adversaries. The
Duc de Gramont asserts that neither the Emperor nor the Government nor
France, desired war—certainly not just then; but they intended to make
war at a time and under conditions chosen by themselves. He admits that
it was the duty of the Imperial Government to evade a war, but also
prepare for a war as much as possible; and, failing to do the former,
he further confessed many months afterwards, that too much confidence
in the army and in its untested military virtues, and the dazzling
splendour of a glorious past dragged France, its Government and its
representatives, into an unequal struggle. “We believed ourselves too
strong to stoop,” he says, “and we knew not how to resist the system of
provocations so ably combined and directed by the Cabinet of Berlin.”
A frank confession, especially from the pen of a statesman who was
himself endeavouring to combine a system of alliances, and who was
anticipated by the Power against whom his plans were directed.
M. Prevost Paradol, who in a moment of weakness had accepted from the
Emperor the post of Minister at Washington, saw more clearly into the
future than the Duc de Gramont and some of his colleagues. On the very
afternoon of the day when the unhappy journalist killed himself, he saw
a countryman, the Comte d’Hérisson, and his language to the young man
showed how deeply he was moved, and with what sagacity he estimated
the near future. In his opinion, expressed on the 10th of July, war
was even then certain, because not only “la Prusse” desired war, but
because, as he said, “The Empire requires war, wishes for it, and
will wage it.” The young Frenchmen to whom he spoke made light of the
peril, and said he should like to travel in Germany, and study in the
libraries of her conquered cities. But the Minister checked his natural
exultation, saying, “You will not go to Germany, you will be crushed
in France. Believe me, I know the Prussians. We have nothing whatever
that is needed to strive with them. We have neither generals, men,
nor _matériel_. We shall be ground to powder. _Nous serons broyés._
Before six months are over there will be a Revolution in France, and
the Empire will be at an end.” Mourning over the error he made in
laying down his sharp critical pen to put on a diplomatic uniform,
and maddened by the retrospect and prospect, Paradol, a few hours
after uttering his predictions, escaped from unendurable misery by a
pistol-shot. It was like an omen of the coming catastrophe.

                              CHAPTER II.

                      THE GATHERING OF THE HOSTS.

                        _German Mobilization._

The great contest, thus precipitated by the formal defiance which Baron
Wimpfen bore from Paris to Berlin, excited deep emotion all over the
world. The hour had at length struck which was to usher in the deadly
struggle between France and Germany. Long foreseen, the dread shock,
like all grave calamities, came nevertheless as a surprise, even upon
reflective minds. Statesmen and soldiers who looked on, while they
shared in the natural feelings aroused by so tremendous a drama, were
also the privileged witnesses of two instructive experiments on a
grand scale—the processes whereby mighty armies are brought into the
field, and the methods by means of which they are conducted to defeat
or victory. The German plan of forming an Army was new in regard to
the extent and completeness with which it had been carried out. How
would it work when put to the ultimate test? Dating only from 1867, the
French scheme of organization, a halting Gallic adaptation of Prussian
principles, modified by French traditions, and still further by the
political exigencies besetting an Imperial dynasty, having little
root in the nation, besides being new and rickety, was in an early
stage of development; it may be said to have been adolescent, not
mature. No greater contrast was ever presented by two parallel series
of human actions than that supplied by the irregular, confused, and
uncertain working of the Imperial arrangement of forming an Army and
setting it in motion for active service, and the smoothness, celerity,
and punctuality which marked the German “mobilization.” The reason
is—first, that the system on which the German Army was built up from
the foundations was sound in every part, and that the plan which had
been designed for the purpose of placing a maximum force under arms in
a given time, originally comprehensive, had been corrected from day
to day, and brought down to the last moment. For example, whenever a
branch or section of a railway line was opened for traffic, the entire
series of time-tables, if need be, were so altered as to include
the new facility for transport. The labour and attention bestowed
on this vital condition was also expended methodically upon all the
others down to the most minute detail. Thus, the German staff maps of
France, especially east of Paris, actually laid down roads which in
July, 1870, had not yet been marked upon any map issued by the French
War Office. The central departments, in Berlin, exercised a wide and
searching supervision; but they did not meddle with the local military
authorities who, having large discretionary powers, no sooner received
a brief and simple order than they set to work and produced, at a fixed
time, the result desired.

When King William arrived in Berlin, on the evening of July 15, the
orders already prepared by General von Moltke received at once the
royal sanction, and were transmitted without delay to the officers
commanding the several Army Corps. Their special work, in case of need,
had been accurately defined; and thus, by regular stages, the Corps
gradually, but swiftly, was developed into its full proportions, and
ready, as a finished product, to start for the frontier. The reserves
and, if needed, the landwehr men filled out the battalions, squadrons,
and batteries to the fixed strength; and as they found in the local
depôts arms, clothing, and equipments, no time was lost. Horses were
bought, called in, or requisitioned, and transport was obtained. As
all the wants of a complete Corps had been ascertained and provided
beforehand, so they came when demanded. At the critical moment the
supreme directing head, relieved altogether from the distracting duty
of settling questions of detail, had ample time to consider the broad
and absorbing business problems which should and did occupy the days
and nights of a leader of armies. The composition of the North German
troops, that is, those under the immediate control of King William,
occasioned no anxiety; and there was only a brief period of doubt in
Bavaria, where a strong minority had not so much French and Austrian
sympathies, as inveterate Prussian antipathies. They were promptly
suppressed by the popular voice and the loyalty of the King. Hesse,
Würtemberg, and Baden responded so heartily to the calls of patriotism
that in more than one locality the landwehr battalions far exceeded
their normal numerical strength, that is, more men than were summoned
presented themselves at the depôts. The whole operation of bringing a
great Army from a peace to a war footing, in absolute readiness, within
the short period of eighteen days, to meet an adversary on his own
soil, was conducted with unparalleled order and quickness. The business
done included, of course, the transport of men, guns, horses, carriage,
by railway chiefly, from all parts of the country to the Rhine and the
Moselle; and the astonishing fact is that plans devised and adopted
long beforehand should have been executed to the letter, and that more
than three hundred thousand combatants—artillery, horse, infantry,
in complete fighting trim, backed up by enormous trains—should have
been brought to specified places on specified days, almost exactly in
fulfilment of a scheme reasoned out and drawn up two years before. The
French abruptly declared war; the challenge was accepted; the orders
went forth, and “thereupon united Germany stood to arms,” to use
the words of Marshal von Moltke. It is a proud boast, but one amply
justified by indisputable facts.

                        _French Mobilization._

How differently was the precious time employed on the other side of
the Rhine. When the Imperial Government rushed headlong into war, they
actually possessed only one formed Corps d’Armée, the 2nd, stationed in
the camp of Chalons, and commanded by General Frossard. Yet even this
solitary body was, as he confesses, wanting in essential equipments
when it was hurriedly transported to St. Avold, not far from Saarlouis,
on the Rhenish Prussian frontier. Not only had all the other Corps to
be made out of garrison troops, but the entire staff had to be provided
in haste. Marshal Niel, an able soldier, and the Emperor, had studied,
at least, some of Baron Stoffel’s famous reports on the German Army,
and had endeavoured to profit by them; but the Marshal died, the Corps
Législatif was intractable, favouritism ruled in the Court, the Emperor
suffered from a wearing internal disease, and the tone of the Army was
one not instinct with the spirit of self-sacrificing obedience. In
time it is possible that the glaring defects of the Imperial military
mechanism might have been removed, and possible, also, that the _moral_
and discipline of the officers and men might have been raised. Barely
probable, since Marshal Lebœuf believed that the Army was in a state
of perfect readiness, not merely to defend France, but to dash over
the Rhine into South Germany. His illusion was only destroyed when the
fatal test was applied. Nominally, the French Army was formidable in
numbers; but not being based on the territorial system, which includes
all the men liable to service in one Corps, whether they are with the
colours or in the reserve, and also forms the supplementary landwehr
into local divisions, the French War Office could not rapidly raise the
regiments to the normal strength. For a sufficient reason. A peasant
residing in Provence might be summoned to join a regiment quartered in
Brittany, or a workman employed in Bordeaux called up to the Pas de
Calais. When he arrived he might find that the regiment had marched to
Alsace or Lorraine. During the first fortnight after the declaration of
war thousands of reserve men were travelling to and fro over France in
search of their comrades. Another evil was that some Corps in course
of formation were split into fragments separated from each other by
many score miles. Nearly the whole series of Corps, numbered from One
to Seven, were imperfectly supplied with a soldier’s needments; and
what is more astonishing, the frontier arsenals and depôts were sadly
deficient in supplies, so that constant applications were made to Paris
for the commonest necessaries. There were no departmental or even
provincial storehouses, but the materials essential for war were piled
up in three or four places, such as Paris and Versailles, Vernon and
Chateauroux. In short, the Minister of War, who said and believed that
he was supremely ready, found that, in fact, he was compelled almost
to improvise a fighting Army in the face of an enemy who, in perfect
order, was advancing with the measured, compact, and irresistible force
of a tidal wave.

The plan followed was exactly the reverse of the German method.
East of the Rhine no Corps was moved to the frontier, until it was
complete in every respect, except the second line of trains; and
consequently, from the outset, it had a maximum force prepared for
battle. There were some slight exceptions to the rule, but they were
imposed by circumstances, served a real purpose, and disappeared when
the momentary emergency they were adapted to meet had been satisfied.
West of the Rhine, not one solitary Corps took its assigned place in
a perfect state for action. All the battalions of infantry, and of
course the regiments, were hundreds short of their proper strength.
Before a shot had been fired, General de Failly, at Bitsche, was
obliged to send a demand for coin to pay the troops, adding notes
won’t pass—“les billets n’ont point cours.” General Frossard, at St.
Avoid, reported that enormous packages of useless maps had been sent
him—maps of Germany—and that he had not a single map of the French
frontier. Neither Strasburg, Metz, Toul, Verdun, Thionville, nor
Mézières, possessed stores of articles—such as food, equipments, and
carriage—which were imperatively required. The Intendants, recently
appointed to special posts, besieged the War Office in Paris, to
relieve them from their embarrassments—they had nothing on the spot.
The complaints were not idle. As early as the 26th of July, the troops
about Metz were living on the reserve of biscuits; there were sent
only thirty-eight additional bakers to Metz for 120,000 men, and even
these few practitioners were sadly in want of ovens. “I observe that
the Army stands in need of biscuit and bread,” said the Emperor to the
Minister of War at the same date. “Could not bread be made in Paris,
and sent to Metz?” Marshal Lebœuf, a day later, took note of the fact
that the detachments which came up to the front, sometimes reserve men,
sometimes battalions, arrived without ammunition and camp equipments.
Soldiers, functionaries, carts, ovens, provisions, horses, munitions,
harness, all had to be sought at the eleventh hour. These facts are
recorded in the despairing telegrams sent from the front to the War
Office. The very Marshal who had described France as “archiprête,” in
a transcendent state of readiness for war, announced by telegram, on
the 28th of July, the lamentable fact that he could not move forward
for want of biscuit—“Je manque de biscuit pour marcher en avant.” The
7th Corps was to have been formed at Belfort, but its divisions could
never be assembled. General Michel, on the 21st of July, sent to Paris
this characteristic telegram: “Have arrived at Belfort,” he wrote:
“can’t find my brigade; can’t find the General of Division. What shall
I do? Don’t know where my regiments are”—a document probably unique in
military records. Hardly a week later, that is on the 27th, Marshal
Lebœuf became anxious respecting the organization of this same Corps,
and put, through Paris, some curious questions to General Félix Douay,
its commander. “How far have you got on with your formations? Where are
your divisions?” The next day General Douay arrived at Belfort, having
been assured in Paris by his superiors that the place was “abundantly
provided” with what he would require. After the War, Prince Georges
Bibesco, a Roumanian in the French Army, attached to the 7th Corps,
published an excellent volume on the campaign, and in its pages he
describes the “cruel deception” which awaited Douay. He writes that,
for the most part, the troops, had “neither tents, cooking pots, nor
flannel belts; neither medical nor veterinary canteens, nor medicines,
nor forges, nor pickets for the horses—they were without hospital
attendants, workmen, and train. As to the magazines of Belfort—they
were empty.” In the land of centralization General Douay was obliged
to send a staff and several men to Paris, with instructions to explain
matters at the War Office, and not leave the capital without bringing
the articles demanded with them. Other examples are needless. It would
be almost impossible to understand how it came to pass that the French
were plunged into war, in July, 1870, did we not know that the military
institutions had been neglected, that the rulers relied on old renown,
the “glorious past” of the Duc de Gramont, and that the few men who
forced the quarrel to a fatal head, knew nothing of the wants of an
army, and still less of the necessities and risks of war.

                       _War Methods Contrasted._

As the story is unfolded, it will be seen that the same marked
contrast between the principles and methods adopted and practised
by the great rivals prevailed throughout. The German Army rested on
solid foundations; the work of mobilization was conducted in strict
accordance with the rules of business; allowing for the constant
presence of a certain amount of error, inseparable from human actions,
it may be said that “nothing was left to chance.” The French Army was
loosely put together; it contained uncertain elements; was not easily
collected, and never in formed bodies; it was without large as well
as small essentials; it “lacked finish.” And similar defects became
rapidly manifest in the Imperial plan for the conduct of the war. Here
the contrast is flagrant. The Emperor Napoleon, who had lived much
with soldiers, who had been present at great military operations, and
had studied many campaigns, could not be destitute of what the French
call “le flair militaire.” He had, also, some inkling of the political
side of warfare; and in July, 1870, he saw that much would depend
upon his ability to make a dash into South Germany, because, if he
were successful, even for a brief time, Prussia might be deprived of
South German help, and Austria might enter the field. There was no
certainty about the calculation, indeed, it was almost pure conjecture;
seeing that Count von Beust and the Archduke Albert had both warned
him that, “above all things,” they needed time, and that the former
had become frightened at the prospect of Hungarian defection, and a
Russian onfall. Yet it was on this shadowy basis that he moved to
the frontier the largest available mass of incomplete and suddenly
organized batteries, squadrons and battalions. He and his advisers
were possessed with a feverish desire to be first in the field; and
the Corps were assembled near Metz, Strasburg, and Belfort, with what
was called a reserve at Chalons, on the chance that the left might
be made to join the right in Alsace, and that the whole, except the
reserve which was to move up from Chalons, could be pushed over the
Rhine at Maxau, opposite Carlesruhe, and led with conquering speed into
the country south of the Main. Before he joined the head-quarters at
Metz, on the 28th of July, the Emperor may have suspected, but on his
arrival he assuredly found that the plan, if ever feasible, had long
passed out of the range of practical warfare. He reaped nothing but the
disadvantages which spring from grossly defective preparation, and “raw
haste half-sister to delay.” He knew that he was commander-in-chief of
a relatively weak and ill-found Army, and he acquired the certainty at
Metz, that, unless he were conspicuously victorious, neither Austria
nor Italy would move a man.

His mighty antagonist, on the other hand, was advancing to the
encounter with such large resources, and so thoroughly equipped,
that no fewer than three Army Corps were left behind, because even
the admirably man managed and numerous German railway lines were
not able to carry them at once to the banks of the Rhine. Moreover,
General von Moltke, the Chief of the Great Staff, had, in 1868–69,
carefully reasoned out plans, which were designed to meet each probable
contingency, either a march of the French through Belgium, an early
irruption into the Rhenish provinces, or the identical scheme upon
which the Emperor founded his hopes; while, if the French allowed
the Germans to begin offensive operations on French soil, then the
method of conducting the invasion, originally adopted, would come into
play. The memorandum on this great subject, the essential portions of
which have been published by its author, Von Moltke, is, for breadth,
profundity, and insight, one of the most instructive to be found in
the records of war. This is not the place to deal with its general or
detailed arguments. For present purposes, it is sufficient to set forth
the main operative idea. The contention was, that an army assembled on
the Rhine between Rastadt and Mainz, and on the Moselle below Treves,
would be able to operate successfully, either on the right bank of
the main stream, against the flank of a French Army, which sought to
invade South Germany; or, with equal facility, concentrate on the left
bank, and march in three great masses through the country between the
Rhine and Moselle, upon the French frontier. Should the French make
a precipitate dash into the German country towards Mainz, then the
Corps collected near that fortress would meet them in front, and those
on the Moselle would threaten their communications or assail them in
flank. The soundness of the reasoning is indisputable; its application
would depend upon the prompt concentration of the Armies, and that had
been rendered certain by careful and rigorously enforced preparations.
The great Prussian strategist had calculated the move of troops and
railway trains to a day; so that he knew exactly what number of men and
guns, within a given area, he could count upon at successive periods
of time; and, of course, he was well aware that the actual use to be
made of them, after the moment of contact, could not be foreseen with
precision, but must be adapted to circumstances. But he foresaw and
prepared for the contingency which did arrive. “If,” he said, “the
French desired to make the most of their railways, in order to hasten
the assembly of all their forces,” they would be obliged to disembark,
or as we now say, “detrain” them, “at Metz and Strasburg, that is, in
two principal groups separated from each other by the Vosges.” And then
he went on to point out how, assembled on the Rhine and Moselle, the
German Army would occupy what is called the “interior lines” between
them, and “could turn against the one or the other, or even attack both
at once, if it were strong enough.”

The grounds for these conclusions, succinctly stated, were the
conformation of the frontier, an angle flanked at each side by the
neutral states of Switzerland and Luxemburg, restricting the space
within which operations could be carried on; the possession of both
banks of the Rhine below Lauterbourg; the superior facility of
mobilization secured by the Germans, not only as regards the rapid
transition of Corps from a peace to a war footing, but by the skilful
use of six railway lines running to the Rhine and the Moselle; and,
finally, the fact that, fronting south between those rivers, the
advancing German Army would be directed against an adversary whose
line of retreat, at least so far as railways were concerned, diverged,
in each case, to a flank of any probable front of battle. The railway
from Strasburg to Nancy traversed the Vosges at Saverne; the railway
from Metz to Nancy on one side, and Thionville on the other, followed
the valley of the Moselle; and as the important connecting branch from
Metz to Verdun had not been constructed, it follows that the French
Army in Lorraine had no direct railway line of retreat and supply. The
railway from Metz to Strasburg, which crossed the Vosges by the defile
of Bitsche and emerged in the Rhine valley at Hagenau, was, of course,
nearly parallel to the German front, except for a short distance west
of Bening. The frontier went eastward from Sierck, on the Moselle to
Lauterbourg on the Rhine, and thence southerly to Basle. The hill range
of the Vosges, starting from the Ballon d’Alsace, overlooking the Gap
of Belfort, runs parallel to the river, and extends in a northerly
direction beyond the French boundary, thrusting an irregular mass of
uplands deep into the Palatinate, ending in the isolated Donnersberg.
It follows that the main roads out of, as well as into, France were to
the east and west of this chain, and it should be observed that the
transverse passes were more numerous south than north of Bitsche, and
that, practically, while detachments could move along the secluded
valleys, there was no road available for large bodies and trains
through the massive block of mountain and forest which occupies so
considerable a space of the Palatinate. Thus, an army moving from Mainz
upon Metz would turn the obstacle on the westward by Kaiserslautern
and Landstuhl; while if Strasburg were the goal, it would march up
the Rhine valley by Landau, and through the once famous Lines of
the Lauter. If two armies, as really happened in 1870, advanced
simultaneously on both roads, the connection between them is maintained
by occupying Pirmasens, which is the central point on a country road
running from Landau to Deux Ponts, and another going south-east to

The influence of this mountain range upon the offensive and defensive
operations of the rival armies will be readily understood. The French
could only unite to meet their opponents in the Prussian provinces at
or north of Kaiserslautern; while the Germans, assuming that their
adversaries assembled forces in Alsace, as well as in Lorraine, would
not be in direct communication until their left wing had moved through
the hill-passes and had emerged in the country between the Sarre and

It has been seen that the available French troops, including several
native and national regiments from Algeria, had been hurried to the
frontier in an imperfect state of organization and equipment. There
were nominally seven Corps d’Armée and the Guard; but of these, two,
the 6th and 7th, were never united in the face of the enemy. Marshal
Canrobert, commanding the 6th, was only able to bring a portion of
his Corps from Chalons to Metz; and General Douay, the chief of the
7th, had one division at Lyons, and another at Colmar, whence it was
sent on to join the 1st Corps assembling under Marshal MacMahon near
Strasburg. The principal body, consisting of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th
Corps, ultimately joined by the greater part of the 6th, and the Guard
were posted near and north of Metz; while the 5th occupied positions on
the Saar, and formed a sort of link, or weak centre, between the right
and left wings. Nothing indicated cohesion in this array, which, as we
have shown, was adopted on the vain hypothesis that there would be time
to concentrate in Alsace for the purpose of anticipating the Germans
and crossing the Rhine at Maxau.

No such error was made on the other side. The German troops were
divided into three armies. The First Army, consisting of the 7th and
8th Corps, under the veteran General von Steinmetz, formed the right
wing, and moved southward on both banks of the Moselle. The Second
Army, composed of the Guard, the 3rd, 4th, and 10th Corps, commanded
by Prince Frederick Charles, was the central body, having in rear the
9th and 12th Corps as a reserve. They were destined to march on the
great roads leading from Manheim and Mainz upon Kaiserslautern. The
Third Army, or left wing, under the Crown Prince, was made up of the
5th and 11th and the two Bavarian Corps, together with a Würtemberg and
a Baden Division. Each Army had one or more divisions of cavalry, and,
of course, the due proportion of guns. By the 31st of July, the whole
of these troops, except the Baden and the Würtemberg Divisions, were on
the west of the Rhine, with foreposts on the Saar, below Saarbrück, in
the mountains at Pirmasens, and on the roads to the Lauter; the great
mass of troops being close to the Rhine. The advantages, in point of
concentration, were already secured by the German Staff; the First Army
alone, one-half at Treves, and the other strung out between the Moselle
and the Nahe, was in apparent danger; yet little apprehension was felt
on that score, because the country through which it moved was highly
defensible—its right was covered by neutral Luxemburg, and part of the
Second Army was sufficiently forward to protect the left.

A week earlier, there had been, indeed, a slight perturbation
in Berlin, where the head-quarters still remained. By unceasing
observation, a careful collation of reports, a diligent use of French
newspapers, the King’s Staff had arrived at a tolerably accurate
estimate of the strength, positions, and internal state of the French
Corps. They were cognizant of the prevailing disorder, and were well
aware that not one Corps had received its full complement of reserve
men. Arguing that the enemy would not have foregone the advantages of
mobilization unless he had in view some considerable object, such as an
irruption into the Palatinate, the Staff modified the original plan,
as it affected the Second Army, and, on the 23rd of July, directed the
Corps of which it was composed to quit the railway trains transporting
them on, and not beyond, the Rhine. This was purely a measure of
precaution, the contingency of which had been foreseen; yet one which
was needless, as the French had already learned that they could not
take the offensive in any direction. No other changes were made, and
the only result of this modification was that the soldiers had to march
further than they would have marched, and they probably benefited by
the exercise. During this period, the bridge at Kehl had been broken,
the boats and ferries removed from the Rhine from Lauterbourg to Basle,
the railway pontoon bridge at Maxau protected, a measure suggested
by the presence of river gunboats at Strasburg, and an unremitting
watch had been kept on the land frontier by small detachments of horse
and foot. Not the least surprising fact is that no attempt was made
by the French to destroy the bridges over the Saar at Saarbrück, or
penetrate far beyond that river on its upper course. On the other
hand, parties of German horse and foot made several incursions between
Sierck and Bitsche, and one small party rode as far as into Alsace at
Niederbronn. It was not until the end of the month that large bodies of
cavalry were sent to the front to begin a career demonstrating afresh,
if a demonstration is needed, the inestimable services which can be
performed by that indispensable arm. The German Army had been placed
in the field in little more than a fortnight, although the 1st and
6th Corps were still _en route_ from the far North. The Crown Prince
reached Spires on the 30th, and the next day, the King, with the Great
Staff, left Berlin for Mainz. He had restored the “Order of the Iron
Cross,” and had warmly expressed his gratitude for the unexampled
spirit manifested by the whole German nation, “reconciled and united
as it had never been before.” Germany might find therein, he said, “a
guarantee that the war would bring her a durable peace, and that the
seed of blood would yield a blessed harvest of liberty and unity.”

Here it may be stated that a French squadron had appeared off the coast
of Denmark on the 28th of July, but only to disappear with greater
promptitude, thereby relieving the timid from any apprehension of a
descent. Large German forces were set free to face westward, and in
a brief space, not only the French marines and sailors, but the ship
guns were vehemently required to fight in severe battles and defend the
capital of France.

                             CHAPTER III.

                            STAGE THUNDER.

                      _The Combat at Saarbrück._

King William did not reach Mainz until the forenoon of the 2nd of
August; and it is characteristically remarked in the official history
of the War, that the journey from Berlin had been relatively slow,
because it was necessary to fit the six supplementary trains bearing
the great head-quarters into the series of military trains in such a
way as would not retard the transport of troops. It is a small fact,
but an apt illustration of the preference uniformly given to essentials
in the Prussian arrangements for war. Soon after the Staff had arrived
in the “Deutsche Haus,” lent by the Grand Duke, whose son, Prince
Louis, the husband of the British Princess Alice, commanded the Hessian
Division, unexpected information greeted them. Telegrams reported first
that a serious action was in progress at Saarbrück, and later that the
Prussian troops had withdrawn from the town.

This was the famous combat, known at the time as the _Baptême de feu_
of the unfortunate Prince Imperial. The Emperor Napoleon entered
Metz on the 28th of July, and took the command of the “Army of the
Rhine.” Until that moment, the seven _corps d’armée_ in the field were
under the orders of Marshal Bazaine, who received his instructions
from Paris through Marshal Lebœuf. They were to act strictly on the
defensive, advice which may be said to have been needless, since,
as we have shown, not one of the corps was in a condition to march
and fight. When the Emperor appeared on the scene, no great change
for the better had taken place, and there was still a dearth of real
information respecting the strength and position of the enemy, while
the reports brought in contained an enormous percentage of error.
Nevertheless, there was a vague feeling at head-quarters that something
must be done to satisfy a public opinion which thought that the
French armies should have been already beyond the Rhine; and on the
30th of July Marshal Bazaine received orders to cross the Saar and
occupy Saarbrück. The task was to be intrusted to General Frossard,
supported by troops on the right and left, drawn from the Corps of
De Failly and Bazaine. Yet this modest operation dwindled down, when
discussed in a sort of Council of War held the next day at Forbach,
into a simple cannonade, and the occupation of the heights on the left
bank! The Emperor was told that his project could not be executed,
and resigning himself, as he always did, to the inevitable, he warned
MacMahon that no movement should be made on his side before the lapse
of eight days. The ostentatious movement on Saarbrück was to be made
on the 2nd of August. Now, at that date, the place was occupied by
fractions of the 8th German Corps, posted on both banks of the river
above and below the town. They consisted of four battalions of foot,
several squadrons of horse, and one battery, and the nearest immediate
support was some miles to the rear, near Lebach. Colonel von Pestel
had held the position from the outset of the war, and was allowed to
remain, at his own request, although a considerable army stood in
his front at no great distance, that is, the three leading corps
of the Army of the Rhine. But on the 2nd Count von Gneisenau was in
command of the German outposts, and had orders, if pressed, to retire
upon Lebach, but he stood fast, and even assumed the offensive, in
order to ascertain exactly what the pressure might be, and test the
intentions of the adversary. Against him, in the forenoon, advanced
Frossard in the centre, Bazaine on the right, and De Failly, who had
crossed the river at Saareguemines, on his left. It was a wonderful
spectacle. The Emperor and the Prince Imperial were present on the
hills to behold so vast an array moving out in parade order, to fight
a sham battle with real shot and shell, against a dozen companies and
six guns. It is not necessary to enter into a detail of this combat;
it is sufficient to say that the Prussians held on to the left bank
until they were obliged, after an hour’s fighting, to retire before
the development of several brigades. Finally, when a French battery on
the Reppertsberg had opened fire on the bridges and the town, Count
von Gneisenau withdrew his troops, first to a place near the town,
and afterwards to a position further in the rear. At other points on
the river the French had failed to pass, but in the evening they sent
parties into Saarbrück, then unoccupied. The French in this skirmish
lost eighty-six, and the Prussians, eighty-three officers and men
killed and wounded. It was the first occasion on which the soldiers of
Napoleon III. had an opportunity of testing the qualities of the German
Army, and they found that their secular adversaries, disciplined on a
different model, and broken to new tactics, were as hardy, active, and
formidable as those of Frederick the Great.

After this striking example of stage thunder, there was a pause—the
French did not pursue the retreating companies of the 40th and 69th,
hold the town, or even destroy the bridges. Indeed, General Frossard,
in his pamphlet, explains that although so few were visible, there
must have been large numbers of the 8th Prussian Corps near at hand,
and insists that they were held back because the adversary did not wish
to show his strength; so that the result actually had an unfavourable
influence on the French—it inspired in them a feeling of apprehension.
They dreaded the unknown. Without exact, and with what was worse,
misleading information, the Marshals and Generals were bewildered by
every adverse strong patrol, which boldly marched up and even looked
into their camps; and out of these scouting parties they constructed
full corps ready to pounce upon them. No master mind at head-quarters
filled them with confidence, or gave a firm direction to their
soldiers. At a very early period, even in the highest ranks, arose
a querulous dread of “Prussian spies,” and a belief that the hills
and woods concealed countless foes. The apprehensions had no solid
foundation, since the First Army was not nearer the Saar than Losheim
and Wadern, and the only troops in the immediate front of General
Frossard were those composing Gneisenau’s weak detachment, which
retired some miles on the road to Lebach. Yet the feeble operation of
August the 2nd induced the Great Staff to concentrate the First Army at
Tholey, that is nearer to the main line of march of the Second Army,
and on the left flank of the probable French advance. None took place,
and thenceforward the swift and measured development of the German
movement southwards went steadily onwards.

                      _Preparing to go forward._

After reviewing the general position of the opposing armies, the German
head-quarters fixed on the 4th of August as the day on which offensive
operations should be begun. It was known in a sufficiently authentic
way, that there were between Metz and the Saar, four French Corps and
the Guard, the Left being at Bouzonville, south of Saarlouis, and the
Right at Bitsche; that the 1st Corps was south of Hagenau, in Alsace,
and that the two remaining Corps were still incomplete, one being at
Chalons, the other at Belfort. It was, therefore, determined that the
Prussian Crown Prince should cross the Lauter on the 4th, while Prince
Charles and General von Steinmetz, at a later date, should move upon
Saarbrück, and grapple with the main Imperial Army as soon as they
could bring the foe to battle. Practically, the skirmish on the 2nd
put everyone on the alert. Acting, as was usual in the German Army on
their own discretion, yet still in the spirit of their instructions,
the divisional and Corps commanders at once sprang forward to support
Gneisenau; so that on the 3rd, the front lines of the First Army were
nearer to the enemy than had been prescribed, and General von Steinmetz
came up from Treves to Losheim.

During this period, the Second Army had continued its movement upon
Kaiserslautern, and its cavalry had already established a connection
with the First Army. It was not the intention of General von Moltke,
who really spoke with the voice of His Majesty, that the Saar should be
crossed until a later day. He seems to have been under the impression
that the French might still assume the offensive; he therefore held
back the somewhat impetuous Steinmetz, and so ordered the movements
that both armies should take up positions between Tholey and
Kaiserslautern, which would enable them to act in concert. Thus, on the
3rd, the vast array between the Rhine and the Moselle, was in motion,
left in front, in other words, the Prussian Crown Prince was the most
forward, while the centre and right were drawn together, preparatory to
an advance in a compact form. The French, it was noted with surprise,
had not only refrained from breaking the substantial bridges over the
Saar, but had left untouched the telegraph wires and stations on both
banks of the stream, so that, says the official narrative, the Staff at
Mainz were kept constantly informed by telegrams of the enemy’s doings
and bearing near Saarbrück. Such negligence would not be credited were
it not thus authentically recorded by the General who found it so

By the 4th of August, the entire front of the Armies advancing towards
the Saar was covered by several regiments of cavalry, actively engaged
on and near the river, especially at Saarbrück, in closely watching
the French, and sending information to the rear. There was not a point
between Pirmasens and Saarlouis which escaped the notice of these
vigilant and tireless horsemen. Behind them came the masses of the
First and Second Armies, which latter, on the 4th, had passed “the
wooded zone of Kaiserslautern,” and had approached so closely to the
First, that a species of controversy for precedence arose between
Prince Charles and General von Steinmetz. Fearful of being thrust
into the second line, the eager old soldier wanted to push forward on
Saarbrück, and reap the laurels of the first battle, or, at all events,
keep his place at the head of the advance. General von Moltke, who had
his own plans of ulterior action, which were not those of Steinmetz,
in order to settle the dispute, drew what he supposed would be an
effective line of demarcation between the two Armies. He also added the
1st Corps, which had come up from Pomerania, to the First Army; the
2nd, 10th and 12th to the Second, and the 6th to the Third Army. While
directing the Crown Prince to cross the Lauter on the 4th, General von
Moltke did not intend to pass the Saar until the 9th, and then to act
with the whole force assembled on that side. In fact, rapidly as the
business of mobilization, the transit by railway, and the collection of
trains for so vast a body of men, horses, and guns, had been performed,
the work was not in all respects quite complete, nor had the soldiers
been able, good marchers as they were, to cover the ground between them
and the adversary, before the date assigned.

Yet Von Moltke proposed, and Von Steinmetz disposed, although he is
acquitted by his chief of any deliberate intention to act prematurely.
The latter, obliged to make room for Prince Charles, gave directions
which brought his two leading Corps within reach of the Saar and his
advanced guards close to Völkingen and Saarbrück in actual contact
with the French outposts; and that disposition led to a considerable
battle on the 6th, a collision not anticipated at the head-quarters in
Mainz. It is, however, pointedly declared that at the moment when he
thrust himself forward Steinmetz did not know what were the plans which
had been formed in that exalted region, to be carried out or modified
according to events, and therefore withheld from him. The broad scheme
was that the Third Army should, after crossing the Vosges, march on
Haney, and that the First should form the pivot on which the Second
Army would wheel in turning the French position on the line of the
Moselle. Practically that was done in the end, and it was facilitated,
perhaps, by the two battles fought on the 6th of August, which
shattered the French, and obliged them to act, not as they might have
wished, but as they were compelled.

                       _Positions on August 4._

For the sake of clearness, the positions occupied by the rival
Armies on the morning of the 4th may be succinctly described. The
French stood thus: On the right, two divisions of the 5th Corps, one
at Saareguemines, the other at Grossbliedersdorf; in what may be
called the centre, three divisions of the 2nd Corps, on and over the
frontier immediately south of Saarbrück; three divisions of the 3rd
Corps echelonned on the high-road from Forbach to St. Avold, with
one division at Boucheporn; on the left, three divisions of the 4th
Corps, one at Ham, a second at Teterchen, and a third at Bouzonville.
The guard were in rear of the left at Les Etangs. The position of
the cavalry it is difficult to determine, but they were not where
they should have been—feeling for and watching the enemy. Nor is it
easy to ascertain the numerical strength of the French Army at any
given moment, because the reserves and battalions, as they could be
spared from garrisons, were constantly arriving; but on the 4th there
were about 150,000 men and 500 guns in front of Metz. That fortress,
however, like all the other strong places on or near the frontier, such
as Toul, Verdun, Thionville, and Belfort, had no garrison proper, or
one quite inadequate to its requirements.

The German Armies on the 4th were posted in this order: The Crown
Prince’s was behind the Klingbach, south of Landau, assembled at dawn
for the march which carried it over the frontier; the Second, or
Central Army, under Prince Charles, was in line of march through the
Haardt Wald by Kaiserslautern, the advanced guard of the 4th Corps
being at Homburg, and that of the 3rd at Neunkirchen; while the Guard,
the 10th, 12th, and 9th were still north or east of Kaiserslautern,
which they passed the next day. The First Army, held back by orders
from the Great Staff, was cantonned between Neunkirchen, Tholey, and
Lebach. In front of the whole line, from Saarlouis to Saareguemines,
were several brigades of cavalry, from which parties, both strong and
weak, were sent out constantly to discover and report on the positions
and doings of the enemy. The three Armies, as far as can be estimated
from the official figures, brought into the field at the outset of
the campaign, say the 4th of August, the First, 83,000 men and 270
guns; the Second, 200,000 men and 630 guns; and the Third, 170,000
men and 576 guns, an overwhelming array compared with that mustered
by the adversary. These totals include only the active Army. The
aggregate from which they were drawn amounted to the enormous sum of
1,183,389 men and 250,373 horses, which, of course, includes garrisons,
depôts, and landwehr in course of formation. It has been laid down on
indisputable authority that the number available for active operations,
namely, that which can be put into the field, is, in all cases, as it
was in this, less than half the nominal effective. The proportion of
mobilized, to what may be called immobilized, troops in the French Army
was for the moment, at all events, necessarily somewhat lower than in
the German, because the Imperial military system, as we have already
explained, was so clumsy, as well as so incomplete.

                   _The Moral and Political Forces._

One other fact may be usefully noticed, because it had a considerable
influence on the campaign. It is this—the moral force, represented
by public opinion in politics, and in the Armies by what the French
call the _moral_, which has nothing to do with morals, but means
cheerfulness, good will, confidence—had passed wholly over to the
German side. Public opinion, which ran in a strong and steady current,
condemned the declaration of war, although a certain superstitious
belief in the invincibility of French soldiers, at least when opposed
to Germans, still prevailed, even among military men who ought to
have been better informed and less under the sway of prejudice. While
Germany was united and hearty, and willingly obeyed an executive
which no one questioned, while Saxony and Hanover, Würtemberg and
Bavaria vied in patriotic ardour with Pomerania and Brandenburg; there
was no such complete and consentaneous feeling in France; and there
was, on the one hand, a powerful, ambitious, and indignant group of
Imperialists, who thirsted for the possession of office, which they
strove to snatch from Emile Ollivier and his semi-Liberal colleagues,
and on the other, outside all the Imperialist sections, the repressed,
enraged, and sturdy republicans of Paris who, it is not too much to
say, waited for the first decisive defeat of the Imperial Armies to
overturn an arbitrary system of government which they detested on
account of its treacherous origin, and dreaded, as well as despised,
while they writhed beneath its power. Jérôme David and Clement
Duvernois were resolved to expel the so-called constitutionalists;
and Gambetta, Favre, and their friends were equally determined, if an
opportunity occurred, to destroy the Empire, root and branch. There
were no such elements of weakness beyond the Rhine.

Nor, as we shall see, did the conduct of the Empress Eugénie, in her
capacity as Regent, supply strength to the Government or impart wisdom
to its councils. She had one dominant idea—the preservation of the
dynasty—and aided by a willing instrument, the Comte de Palikao, she
was the prime agent in the work of depriving the French nation of the
best and last chance of saving Paris from investment and capitulation.
If the political conditions were adverse to the Imperialists in respect
of unity and moral force, they were not less so when estimated from a
military standpoint. The French Army we will not say lost courage, but
confidence, from the moment when it was brought to a standstill. The
soldiers knew quite as well as the generals why, on the 4th of August,
the larger host, under an Emperor Napoleon, was pottering to and fro,
driven hither and thither by orders and counter-orders, in the country
north of Metz, and why the smaller, commanded by Marshal the Duke of
Magenta, was still south of the Lauter. They knew also, from daily
experience, how imperfect the Armies were, because the weakness of
the battalions, the scarcity of provisions, the defects of equipment,
the lack of camp utensils were things which could not be hidden. They
were also inactive and unable to develop the power which springs up
in a French Army when engaged in successful offensive operations;
they deteriorated hourly in _morale_. The Germans gained confidence
at every step they took towards the frontier, not only because they
were animated by a formidable patriotic spirit and were eager for
battle with their ancient foes, but because each battery, squadron,
and battalion had its full complement of men, because they put trust
in their royal chief and his illustrious assistant, and because they
were intensely proud of an almost perfect war-apparatus, in which each
officer and soldier was able, so solid yet elastic was the system of
training, to harmonize obedience to orders with, when the need arose,
discretionary independent action. So that as the huge but perfectly
articulated masses of the German Armies moved swiftly and steadily to
the frontier behind which the adversary awaited them, they bore along
in their breasts that priceless belief in themselves and their cause
which had so often carried troops to victory, even when they were few
and their foes were many. The contrast is painfully distressing; but it
is also profoundly instructive, because when closely scrutinized it
reveals the open secrets which show, not only how empires are lost and
won, but what severe duties a great self-respecting people must perform
to obtain securities for the right of cementing and preserving National

                              CHAPTER IV.

                         INVASION IN EARNEST.

The first blow struck in the war—for the parade at Saarbrück does not
deserve the name of a blow—was delivered on the Lauter by the Crown
Prince. The French Army in Alsace, commanded by Marshal MacMahon, had
been collected at Strasburg from the garrisons in the Eastern region.
At first it consisted of the 1st Corps, which included four infantry
divisions, troops of the Line, to which were added, before the end of
July, three regiments of Zouaves, and three of native Algerians, which
were distributed among the French infantry brigades. There were three
brigades of cavalry, ninety-six guns, and twenty-four mitrailleuses,
the Emperor’s pet arm. The Divisional Commanders were Ducrot, Abel
Douay, Raoult, and Lartigue; and the horsemen were under the orders
of Duhesme. The 7th Corps, nominally at Belfort, under Félix Douay,
actually distributed in several places, one division being at Lyons,
another at Colmar, was also within the command of MacMahon; so that,
on the 4th of August, he was at the head of two Corps, one of which
was many miles distant from his head-quarters. He had, however, moved
forward with Ducrot and Raoult to Reichshofen and Lartigue to Hagenau,
while Abel Douay was pushed still further northward at Wissembourg,
which he reached on the 3rd, but with a portion only of his troops.
In fact, at that date, the army of MacMahon was strung out between
the Lauter and Lyons, and even the portion which may be described as
concentrated, consisted of fragments posted or on the march between
Wissembourg and Hagenau. That very morning, the 1st Division of the 7th
Corps started by railway from Colmar to join the Marshal. It was upon
this scattered array that the Crown Prince was advancing. MacMahon, who
had intended to assume the offensive himself on the 7th of August, did
not know how near and how compact was the host of his foes. Abel Douay,
established on the Lauter, was obliged to part with several battalions
to keep up his communications, through Lembach, with the main body. He
sent out a party on the evening of the 3rd, and early on the 4th, yet
each returned bearing back the same report—they had seen and learned
nothing of the enemy. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a single
instance in which the researches of the French were thrust far enough
to touch the Germans, all their reconnoitring excursions being carried
on in a routine and perfunctory manner. Nevertheless, they had a strong
force of cavalry in Alsace as well as Lorraine; but it was mostly in
the rear, rarely much, never far in front. On the other hand, the Baden
horsemen had looked, unseen themselves, into the French cavalry camp at
Selz, and the scouts on the hills had signalled the successive arrival
of battalions and artillery at Wissembourg. It must be stated, however,
that the Germans did not know, precisely, until they came in contact
with them, what forces were in, or were within reach of Wissembourg.

The object of the German forward movement was two-fold—if MacMahon had
crossed the Vosges to join the Emperor, Strasburg was to be invested,
and the rest of the Third Army was to pass through the hills to the
Saar and effect a junction with the Second. If the Marshal were
still east of the hills, then he was to be assailed wherever found.
Consequently, the whole Army was set in motion, but it was by a gift
of fortune, who, however, rarely favours the imprudent, that they were
enabled to defeat the division exposed to their onset. At four and six
in the morning, the Corps moved out on a broad front stretching from
the hills to the Rhine. Bothmer’s Bavarians, on the right, marched
direct on Wissembourg, followed by the other divisions of the Bavarian
Army. Next in order, to the left, came the 5th Corps, which was
directed upon Altenstadt; the 11th, which pushed through the Bien Wald;
and the Badeners, whose object was Lauterbourg; while the remainder of
the Army was still far to the rear.

                      _The Combat on the Lauter._

Wissembourg, a picturesque old town, standing upon the Lauter at a
point where it enters the plain, is defended by walls not armed with
guns, and surrounded by deep ditches filled from the stream, one arm
of which curves through the place. There were three gates. Under the
archway of the northern, named after the town of Hagenau, passed the
great road from Strasburg, which, turning to the eastward, quitted
the ramparts by the gate of Landau. The western gate, a mere entrance
cut through the wall, having in advance a small lunette, received the
road from Pirmasens. It took its name from the fort of Bitsche, but
the track from that place came down the folded hills by the Col du
Pigeonnier, or Dove-cote Neck, and joined the Strasburg highway just
outside the Hagenau gate. Beyond the walls were factories, pottery
fields, and mills; above and below were the once famous Lines of the
Lauter thrown up on, and following the right bank of the stream
through the forest to Lauterbourg; while on the foot-hills were vines,
which do not add to the beauty of any scene, and hop-gardens; and here
and there the usual rows of stiff trees bordering, yet not shading,
the roads. Distant about a mile or so to the eastward is a spur of the
Vosges, the Geisberg, thrust into the plain, falling steeply towards
it, and crowned by a substantial château, seated above terraces
difficult of access. From this elevation were visible, spread out like
a map, the woodlands stretching towards the Rhine, the roads to the
east and south, and the town, with its railway station, now silent,
near the gate of Landau.

As Abel Douay had only available about eight thousand troops, he
could not defend the approaches through the Bien Wald, or prevent a
turning movement round his right flank. Still, had he not been under
a delusion respecting the proximity of the enemy, he could and would
have destroyed the few bridges over the Lauter, and so disposed his
troops as not to be surprised. But his scouts had reported that the
foe was not near, and thus, when the Bavarian advance appeared on the
hills at eight o’clock and opened fire from a battery, the French
soldiers were engaged in the ordinary routine of camp labours. Startled
by the guns, they ran to their arms with alacrity; but an encounter
begun under such conditions is always disadvantageous to the assailed.
General Douay, an able soldier, came to a rapid decision. He placed two
battalions in the town, another with a battery at the railway station,
and posted the rest and twelve guns on the slopes of the Geisberg.
The walls and ditches of the town, the railway buildings, and part of
the Lauter Lines, brought the Bavarians to a stand, and the combat of
small arms and artillery on this point continued amid the vineyards
and hop-grounds, while the German centre and Left were swinging round
through the forest. The operation occupied considerable time, as two
hours passed by, from the firing of the first gun, before the leading
battalions of the 5th Corps were brought into play. At length, they
came into action against the railway station, and as the 11th Corps had
also developed an attack on the Geisberg from the east, it was evident
that the combat could not last long. The combined efforts of the
Bavarians and the Prussians, after severe fighting and some loss, drove
the French out of the station, and captured the town, together with a
battalion of the French regiment of the Line, the 74th, which was cut
off, and forced to surrender. The assailants had penetrated by the
gates after they had been broken in by artillery, and thus the town was
won. It was really the strong pivot of the defence, and its resistance
delayed the onset upon the Geisberg for some time. In the meantime,
General Abel Douay had been killed by the explosion of the ammunition
attached to a mitrailleuse battery; and the command had devolved upon
General Pellé.

The whole stress of the action now fell upon the Geisberg and its
castle. The height was steep, the building pierced for musketry and
strong enough to resist anything but cannon-shot. The front was
approached by successive terraces, and there was a hop-garden near
by on the Altenstadt road. The main body of the French and all their
artillery, except one disabled gun which had been captured after a
sharp fight, were on the hills to the south, threatened every moment
on their right flank by the development of the 11th Corps which had
entered the area of battle. The little garrison in the castle made a
stout resistance, slew many of the assailants, who swarmed upon all
sides, and compelled the more daring among them to seek shelter at
the foot of the walls. Then the Germans with great labour brought up
in succession four batteries, by whose fire alone they could hope to
master the obstinate defenders who had manned even the tiled roof with
riflemen. Surrounded, threatened with the weight of twenty-four guns,
and seeing their comrades outside in full retreat, the garrison which
had done its uttermost, surrendered as prisoners of war. They were two
hundred, had killed and wounded enemies amounting to three-fourths of
their own number, and had seriously injured General von Kirchbach,
the commander of the 5th Corps. When the castle had fallen the French
retired altogether. Making only one show of resistance they disappeared
among the hills, and what is remarkable were not pursued, for the Crown
Prince riding up, halted all the troops and even the cavalry who were
in full career on the track of the enemy. The Germans lost in killed
and wounded no fewer than 1,550 officers and men; but the French loss
is not exactly known. They left behind, however, nearly a thousand
unwounded prisoners, their camp, and one gun.

It may fairly be said of this combat, especially considering they were
surprised and greatly outnumbered, that the French sustained their old
renown as fighting men and that the first defeat, although severe,
reflected no discredit on the soldiers of the 1st Corps. By no chance
could they have successfully withstood the well-combined and powerful
onsets of their more numerous adversaries. Nevertheless, the death
of Douay, the defeat, and the disorganization of the division had a
profound moral effect, keenly felt at Metz and more keenly in Hagenau
and Reichshofen. Marshal MacMahon called for instant aid from the 7th
Corps; and the Emperor, moved by the news, decided to send him the
5th Corps, which General de Failly was at once ordered to assemble at
Bitsche and then move up the great road to Reichshofen. In the German
head-quarters and camps, on the contrary, there was rejoicing and that
natural accession of confidence in the breasts of the soldiers now
pressing towards the Saar which springs up in fuller vigour than ever
when they learn that their common standard has floated victoriously
over the first foughten field. The First and Second Armies were still
distant from the rocky steeps and thick woods where they also were
to gain the day; but the Third Army, which, by the way, was a fair
representative of South and North Germany, had actually crossed the
frontier, had penetrated into Alsace, through woods and field-works and
over streams renowned in story, and had inflicted a sharp defeat upon
the Gallic troops, whose rulers had challenged the Teutons to wager of

It is admitted that, on the evening of August 4th, the Germans had lost
touch of the adversary. The reason was that the 4th Cavalry Division,
which had been ordered up by the Crown Prince early in the day, had
found the roads blocked by an Infantry Corps, and the vexatious delay
prevented the horsemen from reaching the front before nightfall. So
difficult is it to move dense masses of men, horses, and guns, in
accurate succession through a closed country, along cross-roads and
field-lanes. The few squadrons at hand were not strong enough to
pursue on the several roads which radiate from Wissembourg, and the
defect could not be remedied until the next day. It was known that
the fugitives could not have followed the southern roads, yet there
were hostile troops in that direction, and it was surmised that they
must have retreated into the highlands by the western track, yet they
might have traversed another way, lying under the foot of the hills.
On the 5th of August, the cavalry, starting out at daylight, soon
gathered up accurate information. General von Bernhardi, with a brigade
of Uhlans, rode forward on the highway, into the Hagenau forest,
where he was stopped by a broken bridge guarded by infantry; but he
heard the noise of trains, the whistling of engines, and, of course,
inferred the movement of troops; while on the east, nearer the Rhine,
the squadrons sent in that direction were turned back both by infantry
and barricaded roads. Towards the west, a squadron of Uhlans crossed
the Sauer at Gunstett, a place we shall soon meet again; while Colonel
Schauroth’s Hussars found the bridge at Woerth broken, were fired on
by guns and riflemen, and saw large bodies in motion on the heights
beyond the stream. Hence it was inferred that the army of MacMahon was
in position about Reichshofen, an inference confirmed by the reports
from the Bavarians who had marched on Lembach, from the 5th Corps whose
leading columns attained Preuschdorf, with outposts towards Woerth, and
from the Badeners on the left, who found the enemy retiring westward.
At night, the Crown Prince’s Army had not wholly crossed the frontier.
In front, were Hartmann’s Bavarians at Lembach, the 5th Corps before
Woerth, the 11th, on the railway as far as Surburg; the Badeners
on their left rear behind the Selz; Von der Tann’s Bavarians at
Ingolsheim, and the head-quarters and 4th Cavalry Division at Soultz,
otherwise Sulz. The 6th Corps—having one division at Landau, formed a
reserve. MacMahon’s troops, except Conseil-Dumesnil’s division of the
7th Corps, near Hagenau, were all in position between Morsbronn and
Neehwiller behind the Sulz and the Sauer, a continuous line of water
which separated the rival outposts. The Emperor had placed the 5th
Corps at the disposal of MacMahon, yet he finally detained one-half of
Lapasset’s division at Saareguemines, and drew it to himself; while
that of Guyot de Lespart was sent, on the 6th, towards Niederbronn,
and Goze’s, not wholly assembled at Bitsche on the 5th, remained with
General de Failly, who, at no moment in the campaign—such was his
ill-fortune—had his entire Corps under his orders.

                    _French Position on the Saar._

We may now revert to the positions occupied by the rivals on both
banks of the Saar, in order to complete the survey of an extensive
series of operations which stretched without a break, in a military
sense, from the Rhine opposite Rastadt, towards the confluence of
the Saar and Moselle. If the German Head-Quarter Staff at Mainz,
considering how well it was served, and what pains were taken to
acquire information, remained in some doubt as to the positions and
projects of the Imperialists, at Metz, ill-served and hesitating, all
was bewilderment and conjecture. Neither the Emperor Napoleon, nor his
chief adviser Marshal Lebœuf, seemed capable of grasping the situation
now rapidly becoming perilous to them; they had, indeed, fallen under
an influence which tells so adversely on inferior minds—dread of the
adversary’s combinations; and, perplexed by the scraps of intelligence
sent in from the front, they adopted no decisive resolution, but waited
helplessly on events. No serious attempt was made to concentrate the
Army in a good position where it could fight, or manœuvre, or retreat,
although, as General Frossard and Marshal Bazaine both state such a
central defensive position had been actually studied and marked out,
in 1867. Whether the occupation of the country between Saareguemines
and Œtingen would have produced a favourable effect on the campaign or
not, it would have prevented the Army from being crushed in detail,
and have given another turn to the war. But there was no firmness nor
insight at Metz. The orders issued by the Emperor look like the work
of an amateur who had read much of war, but who possessed neither the
instincts of the born soldier, nor the indefatigable industry and
business-like skill of a man who, thrust into an unwonted employment,
compelling him to face hard realities, endeavours to cope with them by
a steady and intelligent application of the principles of common sense.

On the morning of the 4th, the Emperor did no more than shift his left
wing a little nearer to his centre, by bringing General de Ladmirault
into closer contact with Marshal Bazaine, leaving Frossard in front
of Saarbrück, and directing De Failly to assemble two divisions at
Bitsche, and report to Marshal MacMahon. The notion prevailing in
the Imperial head-quarters was, that the Germans designed to march
upon Nancy, which was not their plan at all, and that the 7th Corps,
reported to be on the march from Treves, might make an offensive
movement to protect Saarlouis, forgetting, as Frossard observes, that
their rule was concentration and not isolated operations; and that
the railroad from Saarbrück afforded the only serious inlet into
Lorraine. In the evening the news of Abel Douay’s defeat and “wound,”
not death, reached Metz, and created alarm, but did not cause any
serious modification of the Imperial plans. The next day the Emperor,
still retaining the supreme direction of the Army, and keeping the
Guard to himself, formally handed over the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Corps to
Marshal Bazaine, “for military operations only;” and the 1st, 5th,
partly at Bitsche, and 7th, mainly at Belfort, to Marshal MacMahon.
The incomplete 6th Corps, under Marshal Canrobert, had not yet moved
out from the camp at Chalons. Thus, there were practically two Corps
remote from the decisive points, and one in an intermediate position,
so handled by the Imperial Commander as to be useless. Not only was
the force called out for war scattered over an extensive area, but—and
the fact should be borne in mind—the fortresses were without proper
and effective garrisons, and, what was equally important, they had no
adequate stores of provisions, arms, and munitions; while the great
works at Metz itself, upon which such reliance had been placed, were
far from being in a defensive condition. Early on the 5th, in answer to
a suggestion from Frossard, who was always urging concentration, the
Emperor directed him, yet not until the 6th, to fix his head-quarters
at Forbach, and draw his divisions round about in such a manner
that, when ordered, he might remove his head-quarters to St. Avold;
instructions which left him in doubt, and inspired him with anxiety.
During the evening, however, acting on his own discretion, he thought
it fit to place his troops in fresh positions, somewhat to the rear
on the uplands of Spicheren, with one division, upon higher ground in
the rear, yet that step, though an improvement, did not remove his
apprehension respecting his left flank, which had been weakened by the
withdrawal of Montaudon’s division of the 3rd Corps to Saareguemines.
General Frossard has been much censured, but he was a man of real
ability, and almost the only general who, from first to last, always
took the precaution of covering his front with field works.

                    _German Position on the Saar._

We have indicated, in the preceding chapter, the stages attained by the
First and Second German Armies on the 4th; and have now only to repeat,
for the sake of clearness, a summary of their array on the evening of
the 5th. The several Corps of the Second were still moving up towards
the Saar. The 4th Corps was at Einöd and Homburg, the Guard near
Landstuhl; the 9th about Kaiserslautern, and the 12th a march to the
rear. Further westward, the 10th halted at Cusel, and the 3rd was in
its front, between St. Wendel and Neunkirchen. The First Army remained
in the villages where it was located on the 4th, that is the 7th and
8th between Lebach and Steinweiler, with one division of the incomplete
First Corps at Birkenfeld. On the evening of that day, however, General
Steinmetz issued an order of movement for the next, which carried
the leading columns of the 7th and 8th close to Saarbrück, and, as
a consequence, brought on the battle of Spicheren, the narrative of
which sanguinary and spirited fight will fall into its natural place
later on. As the main current of the campaign flowed Metzward, it will
be convenient to recount, first, the operations of the Crown Prince’s
Army, which though in a measure subsidiary, produced more telling and
decisive effects upon the fortunes of the French, than the engagement
which broke down their foremost line of battle on the Saar.

                              CHAPTER V.

                         TWO STAGGERING BLOWS.


Alike in Alsace and Lorraine, the actions which made the 6th of August
a date so memorable in this swiftly moving war were undesigned on the
part of the assailant and unexpected on the part of the assailed. In
other words, as General von Moltke did not intend to throw the force
of his right and centre against the main body of the Imperialists
until all the Corps were closer to the frontier and to each other, so
the Crown Prince proposed to employ the day in changing front from
the south to the west and then direct his serried lines upon the
front and flanks of MacMahon’s Army, which he confidently expected
to find in position behind the Sulz and the Sauer, covering the road
to Bitsche. The despatches of the French Marshal also show that he
counted on a day’s respite, since his orders to De Failly were that
the two divisions commanded by that ill-used officer were to march on
the 6th to join the 1st Corps, so that they might be in line to fight
a battle on the following day. But De Failly, harassed by fluctuating
orders from Metz, shifted hither and thither, now to the right, now to
the left, and never permitted to keep his Corps in hand, was unable
to do more than start one division on the road to Reichshofen, while
he assembled the other at Bitsche, and left one-half the third on
the Saar to share the misfortunes of Napoleon and Bazaine. No such
hesitation and infirmity of purpose characterized the conduct of the
German commanders. They had well-defined plans, indeed, and issued
clear and precise orders, yet both the one and the other were so
framed that they could be modified to deal with unexpected incidents,
and adapted at once to the actually ascertained circumstances of the
moment, which is the very essence of war. The spirit of the German
training gives a large discretion to superior officers, who are taught
to apply the rules issued for their guidance to the military situation
which, in the field, is certain to vary from day to day, or even from
hour to hour. Moreover, a German general who attacks is certain to
receive the ready support of comrades who may be near, while those more
remote, who hear the sound of battle or receive a request for help, at
once hasten forward, reporting the fact to, without awaiting orders
from, superior authority. Nothing testifies more effectively to the
soundness of the higher education in the Prussian military system than
the fact that it is possible not only to confer these large powers on
subordinates, but to encourage the use of them. At the same time it
must be acknowledged that, in any army where the officers do not make
the study of war their daily and hourly business, and where the best
of the best are not selected for command and staff duty, the latitude
enjoyed by the Germans could not be granted, because its capricious and
unintelligent use would lead to needless bloodshed, the frustration of
great designs, and perhaps shameful defeat.

It has been already stated that both commanders had intended to assume
the offensive and fight a battle on the 7th, the Crown Prince proposing
to bring up the greater part of his Army and envelop the French,
and Marshal MacMahon, who thought he was dealing with the heads of
columns, having drawn up a plan to attack the Germans in front with the
1st and turn their right flank with the 5th Corps. Had he known how
strong and how compact was the array of his opponent he never could
have framed a scheme which would have transferred to the enemy all the
advantages possessed by himself. The contingency of a forward movement
on his part had been foreseen and guarded against, and the precautions
adopted on the evening of the 5th would have become far more formidable
had the next day passed by without a battle. But those very protective
measures, as will be seen, tended to precipitate a conflict by bringing
the troops into contact on the front and left flank of the French
position. Marshal MacMahon had selected and occupied exceptionally
strong ground. He posted his divisions on a high plateau west of
the Sauer and the Sulz, between Neehwiller and Eberbach, having
Froeschwiller as a kind of redoubt in the centre, and the wooded slopes
of the hills running steeply down to the brooks in his front. The
left wing, where General Ducrot commanded, was thrown back to guard
the passages through the woodlands, which led down the right bank of
the Sulz from Mattstal into the position. The centre fronted Woerth,
which was not occupied, and the right, without leaning on any special
protective obstacle, was in the woods and villages south-east of
Elsasshausen, with reserves in the rear which, says the German official
narrative, together with the open country, were a sufficient guard
against a direct flank attack, an opinion not justified by the result.
The Sauer was deep, the bridges had been broken, and the ascents on
the French side were prolonged, except on one point, and swept by
musketry and cannon. Among the vines and copses, in the villages
and farmsteads, everywhere protected by open ground, over which an
assailant must pass, stood the French Army—Ducrot on the left, facing
north-west, Raoult in the centre, Lartigue on the right, having behind
him Conseil-Dumesnil’s division of the 7th Corps. Pellé, who succeeded
Abel Douay, was in reserve; and the cavalry were partly in rear of the
right, and partly behind the centre. The official German history speaks
of the position as especially strong, regards the mass of troops seated
there, put down at forty-five thousand men, as amply sufficient for a
vigorous defence, and contends that the defect of numbers was balanced
by a respectable artillery and the superiority of the Chassepot over
the far-famed needle-gun. A Bavarian soldier-author, Captain Hugo
Helvig, however, says that the ground held by the French had all the
disadvantages of so-called “unassailable” positions—it had no issues to
the front, consequently the defenders could not become the assailants;
its right was “in the air” and its left “rested on that most doubtful
of all supports to wings—a wood.” Thus the Bavarian captain differs
from the General Staff. The fact seems to be that the position was so
formidable that it could only be carried by onsets on both flanks,
which, of course, implies that the assailant must have the control of
superior numbers. Another point to be noted is that the great road to
Bitsche was a prolongation of the front and in rear of the left, and
that, as happened, in case of a severe defeat, the temptation would
be all powerful to retreat by cross roads on Saverne, that is, away
from instead of towards the main body of the Imperial Army. Marshal
MacMahon had hoped to be the assailant, but he held that if the German
Army continued its march southward beyond Hagenau, he would have to
retreat, a movement the Crown Prince was not likely to make, since the
orders from the King’s head-quarters were to seek out and fight the
enemy wherever he might be found, a rule which governed all the German
operations up to the fatal day of Sedan.

Early on the morning of the 6th, the German columns were approaching,
from the north and the east, the strong position just described.
Hartmann’s Bavarians, after marching westward through the Hochwald
to Mattstal, had turned south, down the Sulzbach. The 5th Corps, in
position overnight at Preuschdorf, had, of course, strong advanced
posts between Goersdorf and Dieffenbach, while von der Tann’s
Bavarians were on the march from Ingolsheim, also through the lower
Hochwald road, by Lampertsloch upon Goersdorf and the Sauer. Further
to the left, the 11th Corps and Von Werder’s combined divisions were
wheeling up to the right, so as to extend the line on the outer flank
of the 5th Corps. The Hochwald rose five or six hundred feet above
the battlefield. Like most uplands, it was intersected by vales and
country roads, and nearly every hollow had its beck which flowed into
the principal stream. This was the Sauer. Rising in hills beyond
Lembach, it ran in a southerly direction along the whole German front,
receiving the Sulz at Woerth, and dividing into two streams opposite
Gunstett. These greater and lesser brooks, though spanned by few
bridges, were well supplied with mills, which always facilitate the
passage of streams. Large villages, also, filled up the valley bottoms
here and there, and the country abounded in cultivation. Through this
peopled and industrious region the main roads ran from north to south,
generally speaking, the road and railway from Bitsche to Hagenau,
and on to Strasburg, passing in rear of MacMahon’s position close to
Niederbronn and Reichshofen, and another highway to Hagenau, a common
centre for roads in these parts, descended from Lembach, and, after
crossing, followed the right bank of the Sauer. Thus there were plenty
of communications in all directions, despite the elevated, wooded and
broken character of a district, wherein all arms could move freely,
except cavalry.

                         _The Battle Begins._

The action was brought on by the eagerness of each side to discover
the strength and intentions of the other. In this way, General von
Walther, at daybreak, riding towards the Sauer, hearing noises in the
French camp, which he construed to mean preparations for a retreat,
ordered out a battery and some infantry, to test the accuracy of
his observations. The guns cannonaded Woerth, and the skirmishers,
finding the town unoccupied, but the bridge broken, forded the stream,
and advanced far enough to draw fire from the French foot and four
batteries. The Prussian guns, though fewer, displayed that superiority
over the French which they maintained throughout, and the observant
officers above Woerth knew, by the arrival of the ambulance men on
the opposite hills, that their shells had told upon the enemy. The
skirmish ceased after an hour had passed, but it served to show that
the French were still in position. Opposite Gunstett there stood a
Bruch-Mühle, or mill in the marsh, and in this place the Germans had
posted a company, supported by another in the vines. Their purpose was
to protect the left flank of the 5th Corps, and keep up a connection
with the 11th, then on the march. The French sent forward, twice,
bodies of skirmishers against the mill, supporting them the second time
by artillery, and setting the mill on fire; but on neither occasion
did they press the attack, and the Germans retained a point of passage
which proved useful later in the day.

These affairs at Woerth and Gunstett ceased about eight o’clock, but
the cannonade at the former, echoing among the hills to the north,
brought the Bavarians down the Sulz at a sharp pace, and thus into
contact with Ducrot’s division. For General Hartmann, on the highlands,
could see the great camp about Froeschwiller, and, directing his
4th Division on that place, and ordering up the reserve artillery
from Mattstal, the General led his men quickly down the valley. An
ineffective exchange of cannon-shots at long range ensued; but as the
Bavarians emerged into the open, they came within reach of the French
artillery. Nevertheless they persisted, until quitting the wood, they
were overwhelmed by the Chassepot and fell back. A stiff conflict now
arose on a front between Neehwiller and the Saw Mill on the Sulz, and
even on the left bank of this stream, down which the leading columns
of a Bavarian brigade had made their way. In short, Hartmann’s zealous
soldiers, working forward impetuously, had fairly fastened on to the
French left wing, striking it on the flank which formed an angle to the
main line of battle, and holding it firmly on the ground. The French,
however, had no thought of retiring, and besides, at that moment, they
had the vantage. When the combat had lasted two hours, General von
Hartmann received an order directing him to break it off, and he began
at once his preparations to withdraw. The task was not easy, and before
it was far advanced a request arrived from the Commander of the 5th
Corps for support, as he was about to assail the heights above Woerth.
It was heartily complied with, all the more readily, as the roar of a
fierce cannonade to the south swept up the valley; but as the Bavarians
had begun to withdraw, some time elapsed before the engagement on this
side could be strenuously renewed.

                          _Attack on Woerth._

We have already said that the Crown Prince, not having all his Corps
in compact order, did not intend to fight a battle until the next day.
But what befell was this. The officer at the head of the staff of the
5th Corps reached the front after the reconnaissance on Woerth was
over. Just as he rode up, the smoke of Hartmann’s guns was visible on
one side, and the noise of the skirmishers at Gunstett on the other. In
order to prevent the French from overwhelming either, it was agreed,
there and then, to renew the contest, and shortly after nine o’clock
the artillery of the 5th Corps, ranged on the heights, opened fire. At
the same time, a portion of the 11th Corps, hearing the guns, had moved
up rapidly towards Gunstett, and three of their batteries were soon in
line. Thus, the Bavarians rushed into battle in order to support the
5th Corps, this body resumed the combat to sustain the Bavarians, and
the advanced guard of the 11th fell on promptly, because the 5th seemed
in peril. The Prussian artillery soon quelled, not the ardour, but the
fire of the French gunners; and then the infantry, both in the centre
and on the left, went steadily into action, passing through Woerth,
and beginning to creep up the opposite heights. They made no way, and
many men fell, while further down the stream, opposite Spachbach and
Gunstett, part of the troops which had gone eagerly towards the woods,
were smitten severely, and driven back headlong over the river. Still
some clung to the hollow ways, Woerth was always held fast, and when
the foot recoiled before the telling Chassepot, the eighty-four pieces
in battery lent their aid, averted serious pursuit, and flung a shower
of shells into the woods. It was at this period that the defect of the
French position became apparent. If the hardy Gauls could repel an
onset, they could not, in turn, deliver a counter stroke, because the
advantages of the defensive would pass, in that case, to the adversary.
But the Germans across the Sauer, who still held their ground, had
much to endure, and were only saved by the arrival of fresh troops,
and by seeking every available shelter from the incessant rifle fire.
In the meantime, the 11th Corps was marching to the sound of the guns.
General von Bose, its commander, had reached Gunstett in the forenoon,
and, seeing how matters stood, had called up his nearest division, had
ordered the other to advance on the left, and had informed Von Werder
that an action had begun, in consequence whereof the Badeners and
Würtembergers were also directed on the Sauer.

It was about one o’clock when the Crown Prince rode up to the front
and took command. He had ridden out from Soultz at noon, because he
plainly heard the sounds of conflict, and on his road had been met by
an officer from Von Kirchbach, bearing a report which informed the
Commander-in-Chief that it was no longer possible to stop the fray. At
the time he arrived, the advanced brigade of Von der Tann’s Bavarians
had thrust itself into the gap between Preuschdorf and Goersdorf, and
had brought three batteries into action, but the remainder of the
Corps were still in the rear. The Crown Prince thus found his front
line engaged without any reserve close at hand, and that no progress
had been made either on the centre or the wings; but he knew that the
latter would be quickly reinforced, and that the former, sustained by
two hundred guns, constituted an ample guarantee against an offensive
movement. No better opportunity of grappling with a relatively weak
enemy was likely to occur, and it was to be feared that if the chance
were offered, he would escape from a dangerous situation by skilfully
extricating his Army. The Crown Prince, therefore, determined to
strike home, yet qualifying his boldness with caution, he still wished
to delay the attack in front and flank until the troops on the march
could reach the battlefield. No such postponement was practicable,
even if desirable, because the fighting Commander of the 5th Corps had
already, before the advice came to hand, flung his foremost brigades
over the Sauer. So the action was destined to be fought out, from
beginning to end, on places extemporized by subordinate officers; but
they were adapted to the actual facts, and in accordance with the
main idea which was sketched by the Chief. It may be said, indeed,
that the battle of Woerth was brought on, worked out, and completed
by the Corps commanders; and the cheerful readiness with which they
supported each other, furnished indisputable testimony to the soundness
of their training, the excellence of the bodies they commanded, and
the formidable character, as well as the suppleness of the military
institutions, which, if not founded, had been carried so near to
perfection by Von Roon, Von Moltke and the King.

Begun in the early morning by a series of skirmishes on the river
front, the action had developed into a battle at mid-day. The resolute
Von Kirchbach, acting on his own responsibility, had thrown the entire
5th Corps into the fight; yet so strong was the position occupied by
the defenders, that a successful issue depended upon the rapidity
and energy with which the assaults on both flanks were conducted by
brigades and divisions only then entering one after the other upon
a fiercely contested field. At mid-day, the French line of battle
had been nowhere broken or imperilled. Hartmann’s Bavarians on one
side had been checked; the advance brigade of the 11th Corps, on the
other, had been driven back over the Sauer, and Lartigue’s troops
were actually pressing upon the bridges near the mill in the marsh,
which, however, they could not pass. The enormous line of German guns
restrained and punished the French infantry, when not engaged in
silencing the inferior artillery of the defender. But no impression
had been made upon the wooded heights filled with the soldiers of
Ducrot, upon Raoult’s men in the centre above Woerth, or on Lartigue’s
troops, who, backed by Conseil-Dumesnil, stood fast about Morsbronn,
Eberbach, and Elsasshausen. So it was at noon, when the hardihood of
Von Kirchbach forced on a decisive issue. Passing his men through, and
on both sides of Woerth, he began a series of sustained attacks upon
Raoult, who stiffly contested every foot of woodland, and even repelled
the assailants, who, nevertheless, fighting with perseverance, and
undismayed by the slaughter, gradually gained a little ground on both
sides of the road to Froeschwiller. By comparatively slow degrees,
they crept up the slopes, and established a front of battle; but the
regiments, battalions, companies, were all mixed together, and, as
the officers fell fast, the men had often to depend upon themselves.
While these alternately advancing, receding, and yet again advancing
troops were grappling with the centre, Hartmann renewed his onsets,
part of Von der Tann’s Corps dashed over the Sauer, filling up the gap
in the line, and joining his right to Hartmann’s left; and the leading
brigades of a fresh division of the 11th Corps, moving steadily and
swiftly over the river below Gunstett, backed by all the cannon which
the nature of the ground permitted the gunners to use, assailed the
French right with measured and sustained fury, and, indeed, decided the

                     _Attack on the French right._

The French were posted in great force on their right—where they had
two divisions, one in rear of the other, between the Sauer and the
Eberbach, having in support a powerful brigade of horsemen, Cuirassiers
and Lancers, under General Michel. The infantry, as a rule, faced to
the eastward; while the attacking columns not only fronted to the
westward, but also to the north-west; in other words, they fastened
on the front from Spachbach, struck diagonally at the outer flank
from Morsbronn, and even swept round towards the rear. The area of
the combat on this part of the field was included on an oblong space
bounded on the west by the Eberbach, and on the east by the Sauer,
having Morsbronn at the south-eastern angle and outside the French
lines; Albrechtshaüser, a large farmstead, a little to the north of the
former, and opposite Gunstett; and beyond that point to the north-west
the undulating wooded uplands, called the Niederwald, whence the
ground slightly fell towards Elsasshausen, and rose again to a greater
height at Froeschwiller, the centre and redoubt of the position. As
the 22nd Division of the 11th Corps came up from Dürrenbach, they
broke obliquely into this oblong, the direction of their attack
mainly following the cross road through the forest from Morsbronn to
Elsasshausen, while their comrades pierced the woods to the north of
the great farmstead. No difficulty was encountered in expelling the
handful of French from the village, but at the farm the Germans had
a sharper combat, which they won by a converging movement, yet the
defenders had time to retire into the forest. Thus two useful supports
were secured, almost perpendicular to the French flank, and the
pathways leading towards Reichshofen were uncovered. General Lartigue
at once discerned the peril, and, in order that he might obtain time
to throw back his right, he directed General Michel to charge the left
flank of the Germans before they could recover from the confusion
consequent on a rapid and irregular advance through the villages,
outbuildings, and hopfields, and array a less broken front.

The French cavalry appear to have considered that their main function
was restricted to combats in great battles. The traditions handed
down from the days of Kellerman and Murat and Lasalle survived in all
their freshness, and the belief prevailed that a charge of French
horseman, pushed home, would ride over any infantry, even in serried
formation. They had disdained to reckon with the breech-loader in the
hands of cool, well-disciplined opponents; and as their chance of
acting on their convictions had come, so they were ready and willing
to prove how strong and genuine was their faith in the headlong
valour of resolute cavaliers. Instead of using one regiment, Michel
employed both, and a portion of the 6th lancers as well. He started
forth from his position near Eberbach, his horsemen formed in echelon
from the right, the 8th Cuirassiers leading in column of squadrons,
followed by the 9th and the Lancers. Unluckily for them, they had to
traverse ground unsuitable for cavalry. Here groups of trees, there
stumps, and again deep drains, disjointed the close formations, and
when they emerged into better galloping ground, indeed before they had
quitted the obstructions, these gallant fellows were exposed to the
deadly fire of the needle-gun. Nevertheless, with fiery courage, the
Cuirassiers dashed upon the scattered German infantry, who, until the
cavalry approached, had been under a hail of shot from the Chassepots
in the Niederwald. Yet the Teutons did not quail, form square, or run
into groups—they stood stolidly in line, hurled out a volley at three
hundred yards, and then smote the oncoming horsemen with unintermitted
fire. The field was soon strewn with dead and wounded men and horses;
yet the survivors rushed on, and sought safety by riding round the
German line or through the village, where they were brought to bay,
and captured by the score. Each regiment, as it rode hardily into the
fray, met with a similar fate, and even the fugitives who got into the
rear were encountered by a Prussian Hussar regiment, and still further
scattered, so that very few ever wandered back into the French lines.
As a charge Michel’s valiant onset was fruitless; yet the sacrifice
of so many brave horsemen secured a great object—it enabled General
Lartigue to throw back his right, rearrange his defensive line in the
woods, and renew the contest by a series of violent counter-attacks.

A furious outburst of the French infantry from the south-west angle
of the Niederwald overpowered the German infantry, and drove them
completely out of the farmstead so recently won. Yet the victors could
not hold the place, because the batteries north of Gunstett at once
struck and arrested them with a heavy fire, which gave time for fresh
troops to move rapidly into line, restore the combat, and once more
press back the dashing French infantry into the wood. On this point
the fighting was rough and sustained, for the French charged again and
again, and did not give way until the Germans on their right, forcing
their way through the wood, had crowned a summit which turned the line.
The sturdy adversary, who yielded slowly, was now within the forest,
and the German troops on the left had come up to Eberbach, capturing
MacMahon’s baggage, thus developing a connected front from stream to
stream across the great woodland. In short, nearly all the 11th Corps
was solidly arrayed, and in resistless motion upon the exposed flank
of MacMahon’s position, while part of the Würtembergers, with some
horse, were stretching forward beyond the Eberbach, and heading for
Reichshofen itself. The Germans, indeed, had gained the north-western
border of the woodland, and General von Bose had ordered the one-half
of his guns and his reserve of foot to cross the Sauer, and push the
battle home. His right was now in connection with the left of the
5th Corps, which had continued its obstinate and sanguinary conflict
with Raoult’s division on both sides of the road from Woerth to
Froeschwiller, without mastering much ground. As the Bavarians were
equally held at bay by the French left, the issue of the battle plainly
depended on the vigorous and unfaltering energies of the 11th Corps.

                       _Attack on Elsasshausen._

That fine body had been in action for two hours and a half, and,
despite a long march on to the field, was still fresh, its too
impetuous advanced brigade, alone, having been roughly handled, and
thrust back earlier in the day. The task now before them was the
capture of Elsasshausen, which would open the road to Froeschwiller,
take off the pressure from the 5th Corps, place Ducrot’s steadfast
infantry in peril, and enable the whole available mass of German troops
to close in upon the outnumbered remnant of MacMahon’s devoted Army.
For these brave men, although obliged to give ground, were fighting in
a manner worthy of their old renown, now dashing forward in vehement
onslaughts, again striking heavy blows when overpowered and thrust
back. Lartigue’s and some of Raoult’s troops stood on the right and
left of Elsasshausen, supported by batteries on the higher ground,
and two cavalry brigades in a hollow near the Eberbach. The foremost
infantry occupied a copse which was separated from the main forest by
a little glade, and this defensive wooded post had, so far, brought
the extreme right of the 11th Corps to a stand. About half-past two,
the centre and left had come up to the north-western edge of the
Niederwald, and thus the French in the copse had fresh foes on their
hands. They replied by a bold attack upon the adversary, whose front
lines of skirmishers were immediately driven in. The gallant effort
carried the assailants into the great wood, but not far; for behind the
flying skirmishers, on both sides of the road, were troops which had
more or less maintained a compact formation. Instead of yielding before
the French advance, the German infantry, accepting the challenge, came
steadily forward along the whole front, bore down the skirmishers,
dispersed the supporting battalion, and, following the enemy with
unfaltering steps, crossed the glade, and drove him into, and out of,
the copse-wood, which had hitherto been an impassable obstacle. As the
entire line rushed forward, they arrived at the skirt of the wood, and,
coming at once under the fire of the French guns on the heights, and
the infantry in Elsasshausen, they suffered severe losses. Then their
own artillery drove up and went into action, setting the village on
fire, yet not dismaying its garrison. The tension was so great, and the
men fell so fast, that General von Bose resolved to risk a close attack
upon an enemy whose position was critical, and whose endurance had been
put to so exhausting a strain.

Thereupon, at the welcome signal, the bands of disordered foot
soldiers—for nearly every atom of regular formation had long
disappeared—dashed, with loud shouts, into the French position,
carrying the village at a bound, and, pushing up the hillsides,
took two guns and five mitrailleuses. The troops of the 11th had
now crossed the deep road running south-westward from Woerth, had
effected a junction with groups of several regiments belonging to
the 5th, which formed a sort of spray upon the inner flank; and had
besides, as already noted, extended south-westward towards the road
to Reichshofen. Once more the French strove, if not to retrieve a lost
battle, at least to insure time for retreat. They fell upon the Germans
along the whole line, making great gaps in its extent, and driving
the adversary into the forest; but here, again, the artillery saved
the foot, and, by its daring and effective fire, restored the battle,
giving the much-tried infantry time to rally, and return upon their
tracks. The Germans had barely time to recover from the confusion into
which they had been thrown by a furious onset, than the four Cuirassier
regiments, commanded by General Bonnemains, were seen preparing to
charge. Unluckily for these stout horsemen, the tract over which they
had to gallop was seamed with deep ditches, and barred by rows of low
trees, so that not only could no compact formation be maintained, but
the cavaliers were not, in some instances, able to reach their foes,
who were well sheltered among the vine-stocks, and behind the walls
of the hop-gardens. Moreover, the German infantry were assisted by
batteries of guns, which were able to begin with shells, and end with
grape-shot. The cavalry did all they could to close; but their efforts
were fruitless, and the enormous loss they endured may be fairly
regarded as a sacrifice willingly made to gain time for the now hardly
bested army to retire.

                     _MacMahon Orders a Retreat._

Indeed, the hour when a decision must be taken had struck, and
MacMahon, who had cleverly fought his battle, did not hesitate. He
determined to hold Froeschwiller as long as he could to cover the
retreat, and then fly to Saverne. For, although neither Hartmann
nor Von der Tann, despite their desperate onsets, had been able to
shake or dismay Ducrot, still, he was well aware that Raoult’s and
Lartigue’s divisions had been driven back upon Froeschwiller, and he
could see from the heights one fresh column of Bavarians moving towards
Neehwiller, on his left, and another descending from the Hochwald to
join the throng on the right bank of the Sulz. Moreover, two brigades
of Würtembergers had come up to support the 11th Corps, and one part
of them, with horsemen and guns, threatened Reichshofen, a Bavarian
brigade, as we have said, was heading for Niederbronn. In addition,
some of Ducrot’s intrenchments were carried by a Prussian Regiment on
the right of the 5th Corps, and it was evident that the fierce struggle
for Froeschwiller would be the last and final act of the tragedy. Yet,
so slowly did the French recede, that an hour or more was consumed in
expelling them from their last stronghold; and except on that point,
their does not seem to have been any serious fighting. The reason was
that the place was held to facilitate the withdrawal of such troops as
could gain the line of retreat, and although the disaster was great, it
would have been greater had not Raoult, who was wounded and captured in
the village, done his uttermost to withstand the concentric rush of his
triumphant enemies.

                      _The Close of the Battle._

No specific and detailed account, apparently, exists, of this last
desperate stand. But it is plain that, as the French centre and right
yielded before Von Kirchbach and especially Von Bose, as the impetuous
infantry onsets were fruitless, as the cavalry had been destroyed and
the French guns could not bear up against the accurate and constant
fire of their opponents, so the Germans swept onwards and almost
encircled their foes. When Ducrot began to retire, the Bavarians
sprang forward up the steeps and through the woods, which had held
them so long at bay; the stout and much-tried 5th Corps pushed onward,
and the 11th, already on the outskirts of Froeschwiller and extending
beyond it, broke into its south-eastern and southern defences; so that
portions of all the troops engaged in this sanguinary battle swarmed
in, at last, upon the devoted band who hopelessly, yet nobly, clung
to the final barrier. How bravely and steadfastly they fought may be
inferred from the losses inflicted upon the Germans, whose officers,
foremost among the confused crowd of mingled regiments and companies,
were heavily punished, whose rank and file went down in scores. Even
after the day had been decided, the French in Froeschwiller still
resisted, and the combats there did not cease until five o’clock. But
in the open the German flanking columns had done great execution on
the line of retreat. A mixed body of Prussian and Würtemberg cavalry
had ridden up on the extreme left, one Bavarian brigade had moved
through Neehwiller upon Niederbronn, and another had marched through
Froeschwiller upon Reichshofen. The horsemen kept the fugitives in
motion and captured _matériel_; the first mentioned Bavarian brigade
struck the division of General Guyot de Lespart, which had reached
Niederbronn from Bitsche; and the second bore down on Reichshofen.
The succouring division had arrived only in time to share the common
calamity, for assailed by the Bavarians and embarrassed by the flocks
of fugitives, one-half retreated with them upon Saverne, and the other
hastily retraced its steps to Bitsche, marching through the summer
night. The battle had been so destructive and the pursuit so sharp
that the wrecks of MacMahon’s shattered host hardly halted by day or
night until they had traversed the country roads leading upon Saverne,
whence they could gain the western side of the Vosges. Nor did all his
wearied soldiers follow this path of safety. Many fled through Hagenau
to Strasburg, more retreated with the brigade of Abbatucci to Bitsche,
and nine thousand two hundred officers and men remained behind as
prisoners of war. The Marshal’s Army was utterly ruined, Strasburg was
uncovered, the defiles of the Vosges, except that of Phalsbourg, were
open to the invader who, in addition to the mass of prisoners, seized
on the field, in some cases after a brilliant combat, twenty-eight
guns, five mitrailleuses, one eagle, four flags, and much _matériel_ of
war. The actual French loss in killed and wounded during the fight did
not exceed six thousand; while the victors, as assailants, had no fewer
than 489 officers and 10,153 men killed and wounded. It was a heavy
penalty, and represents the cost of a decisive battle when forced on by
the initiative of Corps commanders before the entire force available
for such an engagement could be marched up within striking distance of
a confident and expectant foe.

One other consequence of an unforeseen engagement was that the 5th
Division of cavalry, which would have been so useful towards the
close of the day, was unable to enter the field until nightfall. The
Crown Prince and General Blumenthal, not having the exact information
which might have been supplied by horsemen who rode at the heels of
the fugitives, remained in doubt as to the line or lines of retreat
which they followed. It was not until the next day that reports were
sent in which suggested rather than described whither the French Army
had gone. Prince Albrecht, who led the cavalry, had hastened forward
to Ingweiler, on the road to Saverne, but he notified that, though a
considerable body had fled by this route, the larger part had retired
towards Bitsche. Later on the 7th he entered Steinburg, where he
was in contact with the enemy, but, as infantry were seen, he was
apprehensive of a night attack from Saverne, and judged it expedient
to fall back upon Buchswiller. The division had ridden more than forty
miles in a difficult country during the day. From the north-west
came information that the patrols of the 6th Corps had been met at
Dambach, and that the French were not visible anywhere. The explanation
of this fact is that one division of the 6th, directed on Bitsche,
had, in anticipation of orders, pushed troops into the hills, and
had thus touched the right of the main body. The reason why neither
MacMahon nor De Failly were discovered was that the Marshal had fallen
back to Sarrebourg, and that the General had hurried to join him by
Petite-Pierre; and thus contact with the enemy was lost by the Germans
because the defiles of the Vosges were left without defenders.


As the critical hours drew nearer when the capacity of the Emperor
Napoleon and Marshal Lebœuf, applied to the conduct of a great war,
was to be put to the severest test, so their hesitation increased
and their inherent unfitness for the heavy task became more and more
apparent. Marshal Bazaine had been intrusted with the command of
three corps “for military operations only,” yet the supreme control
was retained in Metz, and the Corps commanders looked more steadily
in that direction than they did towards the Marshal’s head-quarters
at St. Avold. Along the whole front, at every point, an attack by the
enemy was apprehended. General de Ladmirault was convinced that the
7th Prussian Corps would strive to turn his left; Marshal Bazaine was
disturbed by the fear that the same body of troops would come upon him
from Saarlouis; General Frossard felt so uncomfortable in the angle
or curve on the Saar, which he occupied, that he vehemently desired
to see the Army concentrated in the position of Cadenbronn, a few
miles to the rear of Spicheren; General Montaudon, who had a division
at Sarreguemines, was certain that the enemy intended to swoop down
upon him; and General de Failly was in daily alarm lest the Prussians
should advance upon the gap of Rohrbach. At Metz all these conflicting
surmises weighed upon, we might almost say collectively governed the
Emperor and the Marshal, who issued, recalled, qualified, and again
issued perplexing orders. It is true that, owing to the supineness of
the cavalry, and the indifference of the peasantry on the border, they
were without any authentic information; but if that had been supplied
it is very doubtful whether they would have been able to profit by it;
and they were evidently unable to reason out a sound plan which would
give them the best chances of thwarting the adversary’s designs or of
facing them on the best terms. The sole idea which prevailed was that
every line should be protected; and thus, on the 5th, the Guard was at
Courcelles; Bazaine’s four divisions, hitherto echeloned on the line
from St. Avold to Forbach, were strung out on a country road between
St. Avold and Sarreguemines; De Ladmirault, who had been ordered to
approach the Marshal, misled by the apparition of Prussian patrols,
gave only a partial effect to the order; while Frossard, on the evening
of that day, instead of the next morning, made those movements to the
rear which attracted the notice of his opponents and drew them upon
him. At dawn on the 6th, “the Army of the Rhine” was posted over a
wide space in loosely-connected groups; yet, despite all the errors
committed, there were still three divisions sufficiently near the 2nd
Corps on the Spicheren heights to have converted the coming defeat into
a brilliant victory. That great opportunity was lost, because the
soldierly spirit and the warlike training, in which the French were
deficient, were displayed to such an astonishing degree by the Germans
whom they had so unwisely despised.

The watchful cavalry on the right bank of the Saar had noted at once
the retrograde movement which General Frossard effected on the evening
of the 5th, and the German leaders were led to infer from the tenour of
the reports sent in, that the whole French line was being shifted to
the rear, which was not a correct inference at that moment. Yet it was
true and obvious that Frossard had withdrawn from the hills in close
proximity to Saarbrück. In order to ascertain, if possible, how far
and in what degree the French had retired, small parties of horsemen
crossed the river soon after daylight, and rode, not only along the
direct route to Forbach until they were stopped by cannon fire, but
swept round the left flank, and even looked into the rear, observed
the French camps, and alarmed both Marshal Bazaine and General de
Ladmirault. Above Sarreguemines they tried to break up the railway,
and did destroy the telegraph; and thus, by appearing on all sides,
these enterprising mounted men filled the adversary with apprehensions,
and supplied their own Generals with sound intelligence. Some
information, less inaccurate than usual, must have reached the Imperial
head-quarters at Metz, seeing that a telegram sent thence, between four
and five in the morning, warned Frossard that he might be seriously
attacked in the course of the day; but it does not appear that the same
caution was transmitted to Bazaine, with or without instructions to
support his comrade. It is a nice question whether the general conduct
of the war suffered the greater damage from the active interference or
the negligence of the Emperor and his staff.

While the cavalry were keeping the French well in view, the leading
columns of the 7th and 8th Corps were moving up towards the Saar,
and one division of the Third was equally on the alert. General von
Rheinbaben had already ridden over the unbroken bridges, had posted
some squadrons on the lower ground, and had drawn a sharp fire from
the French guns. The German staff were astonished when they learned
that the bridges had not been injured. The reason was soon apparent.
The Emperor still cherished the illusion that he might be able to
assume the offensive, a course he had prepared for by collecting
large magazines at Forbach and Sarreguemines on the very edge of the
frontier; and his dreams were now to be dispelled by the rude touch of
the zealous and masterful armies whose active outposts were now over
the Saar.

                          _The Battle-field._

The ground occupied by the 2nd Corps was an undulating upland lying
between the great road to Metz and the river, which, running in a
northerly direction from the spurs of the Vosges, turns somewhat
abruptly to the west a couple of miles above Saarbrück on its way
to the Moselle. The heights of Spicheren, partly wooded and partly
bare, fall sharply to the stream in the front and on the eastern
flank, while on the west lies the hollow through which the highway and
the railroad have been constructed. The foremost spur of the mass,
separated by a valley from the Spicheren hills, is a narrow rocky
eminence, which Frossard names the Spur, and the Germans call the
Rotheberg, or Red Hill, because its cliffs were so bright in colour,
and shone out conspicuously from afar. On the French right of this
rugged cliff were dense woods, and on the left the vale, having beyond
it more woods, and towards Forbach, farms, houses and factories.
The upper or southern end was almost closed by the large village
of Stiring-Wendel, inhabited by workers in iron, and having on the
outskirts those unseemly mounds of slag with which this useful industry
defaces the aspect of nature. The village stands between the road
and railway, and as the heights rise abruptly on each side, all the
approaches, except those through the woods on the west and north-west,
were commanded by the guns and infantry on the slopes. It should be
noted that west of the neck which connected the red horse-shoe shaped
hill with the central heights in front of Spicheren village, there
is a deep, irregular, transversal valley, which proved useful to the
defence. General Frossard placed Laveaucoupet’s division upon the
Spicheren hills, in two lines, and occupied the Red Hill, which he
had intrenched, with a battalion of Chasseurs. In rear of all stood
Bataille’s division at Œtingen. On the left front, Jolivet’s brigade of
Vergé’s division occupied Stiring, and Valazé’s was placed to the west
of Forbach, looking down the road to Saarlouis. As Frossard dreaded
an attack from that side, especially as the road up the valley from
Rosseln turned the position, his engineer-general threw up a long
intrenchment, barring the route. It was in this order that the 2nd
Corps stood when some daring German horsemen trotted up the high road
to feel for it, while others, on the west, pressed so far forward that
they discerned the camps at St. Avold. Below the front of the position,
and just outside Saarbrück, the foot-hills, Reppertsberg, Galgenberg,
Winterberg, and so on, and the hollows among them were unoccupied by
the French, and it was into and upon these that Rheinbaben pushed with
his cavalry and guns, which, from the Parade ground, exchanged shots
with the French pieces established on the Red Hill or Spur.

                    _The Germans begin the Fight._

On the German side, the determination to lay hands upon, and arrest
what was supposed to be a retreating enemy, was identical and
simultaneous; and it is the spontaneous activity of every officer
and soldier within reach, to share in the conflict which is the
characteristic of the day’s operations. General Kameke, commanding the
14th Division, 7th Corps, when on the march, heard that Frossard had
drawn back, and, asking whether he might cross the river, was told
to act on his own judgment; so he pressed southward. General Goeben,
chief of the 8th Corps, had ridden out to judge for himself, and
finding his comrades of the 7th ready to advance, offered his support.
General von Alvensleben, commanding the 3rd Corps, a singularly alert
and ready officer, ordered up his 5th Division, commanded by General
von Stülpnagel, but before the order arrived, General Doering, who had
been early to the outposts, had anticipated the command, because he
thought that Kameke might be overweighted. General von Schwerin, later
in the day, collected his brigade at St. Ingbert, and sent a part of
them forward by rail. In like manner General von Barnekoff, commanding
the 16th Division, 8th Corps, hearing the sound of artillery, had
anticipated the desire of Goeben, and by mid-day his advanced guard,
under Colonel von Rex, was close upon the scene of action. General von
Zastrow, who had permitted Kameke to do what he thought fit, applied
to Von Steinmetz for leave to push forward the whole 7th Corps, and
the fiery veteran at once complied, saying, “The enemy ought to be
punished for his negligence,” a characteristic yet not necessarily a
wise speech, as the business of a General is not to chastise even the
negligent, unless it serves the main purpose of the operations in
hand. Thus we see that the mere noise of battle attracted the Germans
from all quarters; and hence it happened that the fronts of the two
armies, then in line of march, hastened into a fight by degrees—in
detachments, so to speak—which would have produced a heavy reverse had
all the French brigade and divisional commanders who were within hail,
been as prompt, persistent and zealous as their impetuous opponents.

Until near noontide, there had been merely a bickering of outposts,
chiefly on the north-western side; and it was only when the 14th
Division crossed the river and moved up the foothills, that the action
really began. At this time it was still supposed that the battalions,
batteries, and sections of horsemen visible were a rear-guard, covering
what is now called the “entrainment” of troops at Forbach; for the
greater part of Laveaucoupet’s soldiers were below the crests, and in
the forest-land, while Jolivet’s brigade made no great show in and
about the village of Stiring. Kameke’s young soldiers went eagerly and
joyously into their first battle. They consisted of six battalions, led
by General von François, and were soon extended from the Metz road on
the German right, to the wooded ascents east of the Red Hill, which,
in reality, became the main object of attack. The plan followed was
the favourite tactical movement, so often practised with success—a
direct onset on the enemy’s front, and an advance on both flanks. These
operations were supported by the fire of three batteries, which soon
obliged the French gunners on the Red Spur to recede. An extraordinary
and almost indescribable infantry combat now began over a wide space,
sustained by the battalions of the 14th Division fighting by companies.
On one side they endeavoured to approach Stiring; in the centre they
were a long time huddled together under the craigs of the Rotheberg;
further to the left they dashed into the Giffert Wald, and emerged
into comparatively open ground, only to find themselves shattered by
a heavy fire, and obliged to seek cover. For the battalions engaged
soon discovered that, instead of a rear-guard, they had to encounter
half a _corps d’armée_; and, although reinforcements were rapidly
approaching, yet, as the afternoon wore on, it became evident that
the assailants could only maintain their footing by displaying great
obstinacy, and enduring bitter losses. After two hours’ hard fighting
five fresh battalions, belonging to Von Woyna’s brigade of Kameke’s
division came into action on the right, and sought to operate on the
French left flank, some following the railway, others pressing into
the thick woods on the west. The density of the copses threw the lines
into confusion, so that the companies were blended, and, as guidance
was almost impossible, trust had to be reposed in the soldierly
instincts and training alike of officers and men, and on the genuine
comradeship so conspicuous throughout all ranks of the Prussian Army.
Practically, at this moment, the French, although beset on all sides
by their enterprising foes, had a distinct advantage, for they smote
the venturesome columns as they emerged here and there, and it may be
said that, between three and four o’clock, the German artillery on the
Galgenberg and Folster Höhe, held the French in check, and averted
an irresistible offensive movement. Yet the German infantry were
tenacious; when pressed back they collected afresh in groups, and went
on again; and General Frossard was so impressed by the audacity of his
foes, that he brought up Bataille’s division from Œtingen, and directed
Valazé to quit the hill above Forbach, and reinforce the defenders of
Stiring. Indeed, threatened on both flanks, the whole of the 2nd Corps
was gradually drawn into the fray, and its commander, though somewhat
late, appealed for aid to Marshal Bazaine, who himself did not feel
secure at St. Avold.

                        _The Red Hill Stormed._

Shortly after three o’clock, General von François, obeying the orders
of his chief, Von Kameke, resolved to storm the Red Hill. The German
leader was under the impression that the French were yielding on all
sides, which was not strictly correct, for the fresh troops were just
coming into action, and the Germans were superior, alone, in the range
and accuracy of their superb artillery. The gallant François, sword in
hand, leading the Fusilier battalion of the 74th Regiment, climbed the
steep, springing from ledge to ledge, and dashed over the crest, and
drove the surprised French chasseurs out of the foremost intrenchment,
and fastened themselves firmly on the hill. The Chasseurs, who had
retired into a second line of defences, poured in a murderous fire;
General von François, heading a fresh onset, fell pierced by five
bullets, yet lived long enough to feel that his Fusiliers and a company
of the 39th, which had clambered up on the left, had gained a foothold
they were certain to maintain. There were many brilliant acts of
heroism on that day, but the storming of the Red Hill stands out as the
finest example of soldiership and daring. Nor less so the stubbornness
with which the stormers stood fast; especially as the French, at that
moment, had thrown a body of troops against the German left, so strong
and aggressive, that the valiant companies in the Giffert Wald were
swept clean out of the wood.

Fortunately, at the same time, the advanced guards of the 5th and
16th Divisions, already referred to, had crossed the Saar. General
von Goeben, who had also arrived, took command, and formed a strong
resolution. He decided that, as the battle had reached a critical
stage, it would be unwise to keep reserves; so he flung everything
to hand into the fight, on the ground that the essential thing was
to impart new life to a combat which had become indecisive, if not
adverse to the assailant. Accordingly, the artillery was brought up
to a strength of six batteries, and one part of the fresh troops was
sent to reinforce the left, and another towards the Red Hill. Shortly
afterwards, Von Goeben had to relinquish the command to his senior,
Von Zastrow, the commander of the 7th Corps; but the chief business
of the principal leaders consisted in pushing up reinforcements as
they arrived; the forward fighting being directed by the Generals and
Colonels in actual contact with the enemy.

                       _Progress of the Action._

For two hours, that is, between four and six o’clock, the front of
battle swagged to and fro, for the French fought valiantly, and, by
repeated forward rushes, compelled their pertinacious assailants to
give, or repelled their energetic attempts to gain, ground. A German
company would dash out from cover, and thrust the defenders to the
rear; then, smitten in front and flank, it would recede, followed by
the French, who, taken in flank by the opportune advent of a hostile
group, would retreat to the woods, or the friendly shelter of a
depression in the soil. Nevertheless, in the centre, and on their own
left, the Germans made some progress. A battalion of the 5th Division
mastered the defence in the Pfaffen Wald on the French right; a group
of companies crowned the highest point in the Giffert Wald; and the new
arrivals, drawn alike from the 8th and the 3rd Corps, pushed up the
ravine on the east, and the slopes on the west of the Red Hill, until
their combined fire and frequent rushes forced the French out of their
second line of intrenchments on the neck of high land which connected
the Red Hill with the heights of Spicheren. The French strove fiercely,
again and again, to recover the vantage ground, yet could not prevail;
but their comrades below, in the south-west corner of the Giffert Wald,
stoutly held on, so that the fight in this quarter became stationary,
as neither side could make any progress.

On the German right, during the same interval of time, there had been
sharper alternations of fortune. Here the French held strong positions,
not only in the village of Stiring-Wendel, but on the hillsides above
it, and especially on the tongue of upland called the Forbacher Berg.
The assailant had succeeded in taking and keeping the farmsteads on the
railway, the “Brême d’or” and the “Baraque Mouton,” but the efforts of
General von Woyna to operate on the French left had been so roughly
encountered that he drew back his troops to a point far down the
valley. In fact, General Frossard had strengthened Vergé, who held fast
to Stiring, by Valazé’s brigade, and General Bataille had also sent
half his division to support his comrade. The consequence was that the
German projects were frustrated; while, on the other hand, their heavy
batteries on the Folster Höhe had such an ascendancy that the French
could not secure any advantage by moving down the vale.

Yet they were not, as yet, worsted in the combat at any point, save on
the salient of the Red Hill. Upon that eminence the German commanders
now determined to send both cavalry and guns. The horsemen, however,
could gain no footing, either by riding up the hillsides, or following
the zigzags of the Spicheren road, which ascends the eastern face
of the promontory. The artillery had better fortune. First one gun,
and then another, was welcomed by the shouts of the much-tried and
steadfast defenders; eight pieces first succeeded in overcoming all
obstacles; finally, four other guns, completing the two batteries,
came into action, and their fire was efficacious in restraining the
ardour of the French, and rendering the position absolutely secure from
assault. But they suffered great losses, which were inflicted not only
by the powerful batteries on the opposite height, but by the Chassepot
fire from the front and the Giffert Wald. The German commanders had
discovered by a harsh experience that the battle could not be won
either by an offensive movement from the centre, or flanking operations
on the left, because the neck of highland south of the Red Hill was too
strongly held, while the deep valley interposed between the forests and
the Spicheren Downs brought the flanking battalions to a halt, under
cover. It was then determined to employ the latest arrivals, the troops
of the 5th Division, in an effort to storm the Forbacher Berg from
the Metz road valley, and at the same time to renew a front and flank
attack upon Stiring-Wendel.

Here we may note two facts which are apt illustrations of that
efficiency, the fruit of wise forethought, which prevailed in the
German host. One is that a battery, attached to the 1st Corps, arrived
on the Saar, by railway, direct from Königsberg, on the confines of
East Prussia, and, driving up, actually went into position, and opened
fire from the Folster Höhe. It was the first light battery commanded by
Captain Schmidt, whose exploit was, then, at least, without parallel.
The other is that the 2nd battalion of the 53rd Regiment, starting at
six in the morning from Wadern, actually marched, part of the time
as artillery escort, nearly twenty-eight miles in thirteen hours,
and, towards sunset, stood in array on the field of battle. The like
goodwill and energy were displayed by all the troops; but this example
of zeal and endurance deserves special record.

                          _Frossard Retires._

The final and decisive encounters on this sanguinary field were
delivered on the western fronts. Four battalions were directed along or
near the Metz road upon the heights above Stiring, while the troops on
the extreme German right, which, it will be remembered, had suffered
a reverse, resumed their march upon the village. These simultaneous
onsets were all the more effective, because the French commander was
alarmed by the advance guard of the 13th Division, which, having
moved up from Rosseln, was now near to Forbach itself. He had become
apprehensive of being turned on both flanks, for Laveaucoupet was, at
that moment, engaged in a desperate, although a partially successful
strife against the Germans in the Giffert Wald. The flank attack on
the Forbacher Berg, skilfully conducted, drove back the adversary,
yet could not be carried far, because he was still strong and it was
growing dusk. In like manner, Stiring itself was only captured in part.
On the other hand, so vehement a rush was made upon the Giffert Wald
that the French once more penetrated its coverts. Practically, however,
the battle had been decided. General Frossard, receiving no support
from Bazaine’s divisions, greatly disturbed by the news that the head
of a hostile column was close to Forbach, unable to oust the Germans
from the Red Hill or effectively repel their onsets on the Metz road
had, half an hour before a footing on the Forbacher Berg was won, given
orders for a retreat upon Sarreguemines, so that the furious outburst
of French valour in the Giffert Wald was only the expiring flash of a
finely-sustained engagement, and the forerunner of a retrograde night

Indeed, General Frossard is entitled to any credit which may accrue
from the stoutness with which he held his main position until
nightfall. He himself assigns the march of Von Golz from Rosseln upon
Forbach as the reason for his retreat. Having been obliged to leave
the heights north-west of Forbach practically undefended, in order
to support Vergé in Stiring-Wendel, he lost, or thought he had lost,
control over the high road and railway to Metz, and felt bound to
retire eccentrically upon Sarreguemines, a movement which it is not
easy to comprehend. It is true that the guns of Von Golz, firing from
the hills above Forbach, drove back a train bringing reinforcements
from St. Avold, but a couple of miles to the rear was Metman’s entire
division; and it was from and not towards this succour that the main
body of the French took their way. The most astonishing fact connected
with this battle is that during the whole day three of Bazaine’s
divisions were each within about nine miles of the battlefield. It
was not the Marshal’s fault that not one assisted the commander of
the 2nd Corps. Each had been directed to do so, but none succeeded.
General Montaudon did, indeed, move out from Sarreguemines, but halted
after covering a few miles. General de Castagny, as soon as he heard
the guns, and without waiting for orders, marched his division from
Puttelange; but, unluckily for him, the sound led him into the hills,
where the dense woods and vales obstructed the passage of the sound.
Hearing nothing he returned to Puttelange, but no sooner had he got
there than the roar of artillery, more intense than ever, smote his
ear. The ready veteran at once set out afresh, this time following the
route which would have brought him into the heart of the Spicheren
position. He was too late; night came on apace, the distant tumult died
down, he endeavoured to communicate with Frossard, but his messenger
only found Metman, who, coming on from Marienthal, had halted at
Bening, and did not move upon Forbach until nearly dark. Thus were
three strong divisions wasted, and a force which would have given
the French victory, spent the day in wandering to and fro or in weak
hesitation. General de Castagny was the only officer who really did
his utmost to support the 2nd Corps; for Metman awaited orders, and
they came too late. During the night, or early in the morning, they
all, except De Castagny, who was called up to St. Avold, assembled near
Puttelange, wearied and disgusted with their fruitless exertions; and
there they were joined by the 2nd Corps.

The Germans bivouacked on the field. They had had in action
twenty-seven battalions and ten batteries, and the day’s irregular
and confused fighting had cost them in killed and wounded a loss of
no fewer than 223 officers and 4,648 men; while the French lost 249
officers and 3,829 men, including more than two thousand prisoners.
The great disproportion is due to the fact that the Germans were the
assailants and that throughout the day and on all points they fought
the battle with relatively small groups, parts of the 7th, 8th, and 3rd
Corps, which arrived in succession on the scene. That the victory was
not more complete must be ascribed to the improvised character of the
conflict. Both Woerth and Spicheren were accidental combats due to the
initiative of subordinate officers, a practice which has its dangers;
but the success attained in each case is a striking proof that the
discipline and training of all ranks in the German Army had created a
living organism which could be trusted to work by itself.

                              CHAPTER VI.

                         VACILLATION IN METZ.

Two such staggering and unexpected blows filled the civil population
with terror, the aspiring soldiers at head-quarters with anger, and
the Imperial Commander-in-Chief with dismay. Disorder, consternation,
and amazement reigned in Metz. And no wonder. From Alsace came the
appalling news that the 1st Corps had been hopelessly shattered and
that the Marshal was already fleeing for safety, by day and night,
through the passes of the Vosges. Strasburg reported the arrival of
fugitives and the absence of a garrison. “We have scarcely any troops,”
wrote the Prefect; “at most from fifteen hundred to two thousand men.”
The chief official at Epinal asked for power to organize the defence of
the Vosges at the moment when the passes were thronged with MacMahon’s
hurrying troops. It was known that General Frossard had been defeated
and that he was in full retreat, but during twenty-four hours no direct
intelligence came to hand from him. That De Failly, left unsupported
at Bitsche, would retire at once was assumed, but the orders directing
his movements did not reach him until, after a severe night march, he
had halted a moment at Lutzelstein, or, as the French call the fort,
La Petite Pierre. From Verdun and Thionville arrived vehement demands
for arms and provisions; and from the front towards the Saar no
report that was not alarming. Turning to the south-east, the Imperial
head-quarters did not know exactly where Douay’s 7th Corps was; and in
an agony of apprehension ordered the General, if he could, to throw a
division into Strasburg, and “with the two others” cover Belfort. When
the telegram was sent one of these had been heavily engaged at Woerth,
and the other was at Lyons not yet formed! The anxiety of the Emperor
and his assistants was embittered by the knowledge that not one strong
place on the Rhine had a sufficient garrison; and that the rout of
MacMahon had not only flung wide open the portals of Lorraine, but had
made the reduction of ill-provided Strasburg a question of weeks or
days. So heedlessly had the Ollivier Ministry, the Emperor and Empress
rushed into war, at a time when even the fortifications of Metz were
glaringly incomplete, when the storehouses of the frontier fortresses
were ill-supplied, when arms and uniforms were not or could not be
furnished to the Mobiles; when, in short, nothing could be put between
the Germans and Paris except the troops hastily collected in Alsace
and Lorraine—now a host in part shattered, in part disordered, and the
whole without resolute and clear-sighted direction.

Prince Louis Napoleon, sitting passively on his horse in the
barrack-yard of Strasburg, in 1836, was defined by a caustic historian
as a “literary man” whose characteristic was a “faltering boldness.”
The phrases apply to the Emperor in Metz. It may be said that he could
use the language employed by soldiers, that he had some military
judgment, but that, when called on, he could not deal at all with the
things which are the essence of the profession he loved to adopt.
After a lapse of more than thirty years, he found himself, not alone
in a barrack-yard facing an “indignant Colonel,” but at the head of a
great, yet scattered and roughly handled Army, with formidable enemies
pressing upon his front, and equally formidable enemies pouring through
the rugged hill paths upon his vulnerable flank, and threatening the
sole railway which led direct through Chalons to Paris. He was now a
man, old for his years, and a painful disease made a seat on horseback
almost intolerable. He could not, like his uncle in his prime, ride
sixty miles a day, sleep an hour or two, and mount again if needful. He
was an invalid and a dreamer, who had, against his fluctuating will,
undertaken a task much too vast for his powers. The contemptuous words
applied to him by Mr. Kinglake seem harsh, still, in very truth, they
exactly describe Louis Napoleon as he was at Strasburg in 1836, and as
he sat meditatively at Metz in 1870. Yet, be it understood, he never at
any period of his career was wanting in coolness and physical courage,
though what Napier has finely called “springing valour” had no place in
his temperament. He was scared by the suddenness of the shock and the
rapidity of events, and he was bewildered because he was incapable of
grasping, co-ordinating, or understanding the thick-coming realities
presented by war on a grand scale; and stood always too much in awe of
the unknown. He could not “make up his mind,” and in the higher ranks
of the French Army there was not one man who could force him to make
it up and stand fast by his resolution. But, inferior as they were
when measured by a high standard, it is probable that any one of the
Corps Commanders, clothed with Imperial power, would have conducted the
campaign far better than the Emperor. Another disadvantage which beset
him was a moral consequence inseparable from his adventurous career.
He could not add a cubit to his military stature; but he need not have
“waded through slaughter to a throne.” In Paris before he started
for the frontier, in Metz on the morning of August 7th, he must have
felt, as the Empress also felt, that his was a dynasty which could
not stand before the shock of defeat in battle. He had, therefore, to
consider every hour, not so much what was the best course of action
from the soldier’s standpoint, as how any course, advance, retreat or
inaction, would affect the political situation in Paris. Count von
Bismarck’s haughty message through M. Benedetti in 1866, if Benedetti
faithfully delivered it, must have come back to the Emperor’s memory
in 1870. Remind the Emperor, said Bismarck, that a war might bring
on a revolutionary crisis; and add, that “in such a case, the German
dynasties are likely to prove more solid than that of the Emperor
Napoleon.” It was a consciousness of the weak foundations of his power,
breeding an ever-present dread alike in the capital and the camp,
which, making him ponder when he should act, falter when he should be
bold, imparted to his resolutions the instability of the wind.

It is on record that the first impulse of the Emperor and his intimate
advisers was to retreat forthwith over the Moselle and the Meuse.
General de Ladmirault was ordered to fall back on Metz; the Guard had
to take the same direction; Bazaine, who had responsibility without
power, was requested to protect the retirement of Frossard, who,
driven off the direct, was marching along the more easterly road to
Metz, through Gros Tenquin and Faulquemont, which the Germans call
Falconberg; De Failly was required, if he could, to move on Nancy.
MacMahon, it was hoped, would gather up his fragments, and transport
them to Chalons, where Canrobert was to stand fast, and draw back to
that place one of his divisions which had reached Nancy. Paris was
placarded with the Emperor’s famous despatch; and the Parisians read
aloud the ominous sentences which heralded the fall of an Empire.
“Marshal MacMahon,” said the Emperor, “has lost a battle on the Sauer.
General Frossard has been obliged to retire. The retreat is conducted
in good order.” And then followed the tell-tale phrase, used by
Napoleon I. himself on a similar occasion—“_Tout peut se rétablir_,”
all, perhaps, may come right again. But so inconstant was the Imperial
will, that the hasty resolve to fly into Champagne faded out almost
as soon as it was formed; for the next day the dominant opinion was
that it would be better to remain on the right bank of the Moselle.
MacMahon and De Failly accordingly got counter orders, indicating
Nancy as a point of concentration, and based on a feeble notion that
they could both be drawn to Metz; while once again Canrobert was told
to bring the infantry of the 6th Corps up to the same place by rail.
Orders and counter orders then showered down on De Failly—thus, he was
and he was not to move on Toul—but the enemy’s movements dictated the
future course of a General rendered as powerless as his superiors were
vacillating; and finally both the Marshal and his luckless subordinate,
as well as Douay’s 7th Corps, made their way deviously to the camp of

                  _The Emperor resigns his command._

When the Emperor suddenly revoked the order to retire upon Chalons,
he was influenced partly by military, but chiefly by political
considerations. Remonstrances were heard in the camps, remonstrances
arrived from Paris, and the combined effect of these open
manifestations produced an order to establish the Army in position
behind the French Nied, a stream which, rising to the southward,
flows parallel to the Moselle, and, after receiving the German Nied,
runs into the Saar below Saarlouis. The weather had been wet and
tempestuous; the retiring troops, exhausted by night marches and want
of food, struggled onward, yet showed signs of “demoralization;” in
other words, were out of heart, and insubordinate. Frossard’s men, who
had passed the prescribed line before receiving the new instructions,
had to retrace their steps; and Decaen, now in command of the 3rd
Corps, begged for rest on behalf of his divisions. Yet the three Corps
and the Guard occupied, on the 10th, the new position which, selected
by Marshal Lebœuf, extended from Pange to Les Etangs. It was intended
to fight a battle on that ground, and the men were set to work on
intrenchments, some of which were completed before another change
occurred in the directing mind. The position was found to be defective;
and, on the 11th, the entire Army, abandoning its wasted labours, moved
back upon the outworks of Metz itself, almost within range of its guns.
Thus had three precious days been spent in wandering to and fro at
a time when the military situation required that the Army should be
transferred to the left bank of the Moselle, and placed in full command
of the route to Chalons, even if it were not compelled to fall back
further than the left bank of the Meuse. One explanation, drawn by the
official writers of the German Staff history, from French admissions,
is that, instead of Metz protecting the Army, the Army was required to
protect Metz, seeing that the forts were not in a state to hold out
against a siege of fifteen days! The Imperial Commander had not even
yet quite made up his mind; but, late on the 12th, finding the burden
too severe, and the clamour of public opinion too great, he appointed
Marshal Bazaine Commander-in-Chief of “the Army of the Rhine.” It was
a _damnosa hæreditas_; for the campaign was virtually lost during ten
days of weakness and vacillation, and especially by the want of a
prompt decision between the 7th and the 10th of August, while there was
yet time.

As we have said, the main reason was political. The eager aspirants for
power, and the friends of the Empress in Paris, ousted the Ollivier
Ministry on the 9th, and the new combination, with the Comte de Palikao
at its head, felt that they could not retain office, that the “dynasty”
even could not survive unless the Emperor and the Army fought and won.
Everything must be risked to give the dynasty a chance. The Regency
and the Camp fell under the influence of hostile public opinion,
which had already begun to associate the name of Napoleon, not only
with the reverses endured, but the utter want of preparation for war,
now painfully evident to the multitude as well as to the initiated.
Yet so menacing and terrible did the actual facts become that even
the Emperor could not resist them, and, in handing over the command
to Bazaine on the 13th, he ordered that unfortunate, if ambitious,
officer to transfer the Army with the utmost speed to the left bank of
the Moselle, place Laveaucoupet’s Division in Metz, and gain Verdun
as quickly as possible. It was too late, as we shall see; for the
Prussians were ready to grasp at the skirts of a retreating Army, and
once more thwart the plans of its leaders. In order to track the course
of events to this point, the narrative must revert to the morrow of

                         _The German Advance._

On the morning of the 7th of August, some French troops were still in
Forbach, and Montaudon’s Division had not departed from Sarreguemines.
The fronts of the two invading armies were hardly over the frontier,
and the chiefs had not yet learned the full extent of the double
shock inflicted on the adversary. A thick fog enveloped the Spicheren
battlefield, and clung to the adjacent hills and woods, and through the
mist the patrols had to feel their way. No serious resistance could be
offered by the French detachments at any point; Forbach, together with
its immense stores, was occupied at an early hour; while, so soon as
the vigilant cavalry saw the rear-guard of Montaudon quit the place,
they rode into Sarreguemines. Patrols were pushed out along the roads
towards Metz, but no advance was made, partly because the respective
Corps composing both the German Armies were still on the march, and
partly because the Staff, mistaken respecting the route followed by
MacMahon, had ordered several movements with the object of intercepting
and destroying his broken divisions. The consequence was that the
leading columns stood fast while the Corps to the rear and left were
brought up to and beyond the Saar. MacMahon and De Failly, as we have
seen, were hurrying southward, and thus Von Moltke’s precautions
proved needless. During the 8th, the cavalry, despatched far and wide,
between St. Avold and the Upper Saar, found foes near the former, who
at once retired, but none on the course of the river. The next day,
the horsemen, still more active, sent in reports which satisfied the
cautious Chief of the Staff that the French had really fallen back on
Metz, yet inspired him with some doubts respecting their intentions.
He thought it possible that they might assume the offensive in the
hope of surprising and routing part of the German Armies—a project
actually discussed by the Emperor and Bazaine, but soon thrown aside.
Von Moltke, however, determined to guard against that design, kept his
several Corps within supporting distance; and, on the 10th, began a
great movement forward. The First Army, in the post of danger, was
to serve as a pivot upon which the Second, effecting a wheel to the
right, swung inwards towards the Moselle above Metz. Von Steinmetz,
much to his disgust, had to halt about Carling, with his supports
towards Teterchen and Boulay, and the 9th Corps in support at Forbach.
On his left, the Second Army was advancing in echelon on roads between
Harskirchen, near Saar Union, where the 4th Corps touched the outposts
of the Crown Prince’s Army, and Faulquemont, where the 3rd Corps
stood on the railway, having on its left the 10th about Hellimer, and
the Guard at Gueblange. The 12th was still on the Saar, and the 2nd,
awaiting its last battalions, in Rhenish Prussia. Thus the two Armies
stood on the 11th, covered by brigades of cavalry, whose operations,
better than anything else, illustrate the audacious, yet elastic and
painstaking, methods employed by the Germans in war.

                     _The German Cavalry at Work._

Never before had the principle that cavalry are the eyes and ears of
an army been more extensively applied. We have already seen these
well-trained horsemen watching the line of the Saar, and even looking
into the rear of the French camps; we shall now see them literally
infesting the country between the Saar and the Moselle without let
or hindrance from the French cavaliers. After Spicheren, the German
cavalry divisions were distributed along the front of the Corps in
motion; and the hardy reiters were soon many miles ahead of the
infantry, some penetrating up the easy western slopes of the Vosges,
where they found no enemies, others riding towards Nancy and the points
of passage over the river below that town; and others again hovering
pertinaciously on the rear of the backward moving French Corps,
picking up stragglers, capturing prisoners, interrogating officials,
and inspecting, from coigns of vantage, the camps and positions of the
enemy. In this way they learned that the Emperor had visited Bazaine
at Faulquemont; that the greater part of the French were Metzward,
and that on the left towards the hills there were none to be seen.
The cavalry divisions rode out long distances, detaching flanking
parties and pushing patrols to the front, so that the whole range of
country between the right and left of the Infantry Corps was thoroughly
searched by these indefatigable and daring explorers. Thus, a troop
of Uhlans, starting from Faulquemont, rode as far as the woods near
Berlize, and keeping well under cover, yet quite close to the enemy,
took note of his positions at and beyond Pange, saw large bodies
moving from Metz to take ground behind the Nied, and learned that
reinforcements, the leading brigades of the Canrobert’s Corps, in fact,
had arrived at Metz. Another patrol of lancers, moving on the St. Avold
road, confirmed the report that the French had occupied the Nied line;
while, on the opposite flank, a Hussar patrol found no enemy about
Château Salins, but laid hands on the bearer of important despatches.
On the 11th, the screen of inquisitive horsemen became thicker and more
venturesome, trotting up to the river Seille itself at Nomény, on the
road to Pont à Mousson. The mounted men of the First Army had hitherto
been held back, but now the two divisions, passing forth on the flanks,
approached and examined the left of the French line. One troop arrived
near Les Etangs just in time to see De Ladmirault’s Corps folding up
their tents, and soon beheld the French march off towards Metz; indeed
the deep columns were moving in that direction from the left bank of
the Nied. The Uhlans followed De Ladmirault through Les Etangs until
they saw him go into position at Bellecroix close to the place. In like
manner, other Uhlans, operating further up the stream, found the camps
and intrenchments abandoned, so that it became certain, on the evening
of the 11th, that the French Army had been drawn back under the guns of
Metz. The next day the activity of the cavaliers increased, and they
pressed forward until they were in contact with the French outposts,
and were able to observe the whole new position between Queleu and
Bellecroix, working up on the left to a point within three miles of
Metz, and proving that as far as the right bank above the town, the
country was unoccupied. On the 12th, Uhlans had ridden into Nancy, on
one side, and, on the other, a body of Cuirassiers actually found the
gates of Thionville open, captured a _garde mobile_ belonging to the
garrison, and brought off a Prussian reserve man who had been detained
in the town. At Dieulouard a patrol crossed the Moselle on a bridge
just constructed by the French, and were only driven from the railway,
which they had begun to destroy, by infantry—the last detachments of
Canrobert’s Corps allowed to get through by train from Chalons. A
daring attempt was made upon Pont à Mousson by some Hussars; but here
General Margueritte, sent with his Chasseurs d’Afrique from Metz, drove
back the invaders, killing a great number. These examples will suffice
to give some idea of the admirable use which the Germans made of their
cavalry, to conceal their movements, harass the enemy, and, above all,
gain priceless information, while the adversary, whose horse were idle,
could obtain none. The dash made by Margueritte to relieve Pont à
Mousson is the one solitary instance of alertness shown by the French,
and even he and his troopers were withdrawn, leaving the river line
above Metz wholly unprotected, and the bridges unbroken!

                  _The Germans March on the Moselle._

From these wide-ranging enterprises, conducted by keen and resolute
soldiers, the Great Staff obtained nearly as minute a knowledge of
the French proceedings as they possessed themselves, and were enabled
to direct the march of the German Armies with firmness and precision.
Their great object was to secure the unguarded line of the Moselle by
seizing, as rapidly as possible, all the points of passage above Metz,
and the only doubt entertained at head-quarters was suggested by the
apprehension that the energy displayed by the cavalry might attract
attention to these undefended spots. Accordingly, while the First Army,
again, was ordered to protect the right of the Second, by advancing on
the Nied, taking up ground between Pange and Les Etangs, the Second was
to move upon the Seille, and endeavour to secure the bridges at Pont à
Mousson, Dieulouard and other places, sending the cavalry once more in
force over the stream. Von Moltke’s calculation was that if the French
attacked Von Steinmetz, Prince Charles could form up and threaten their
flank; if they tried to operate against the Second Army by ascending
the Moselle, Von Steinmetz could then assail them in line of march, as
they must cross his front; while if passing through Metz they moved up
the left bank, Prince Charles could effect a junction with the Crown
Prince, and Von Steinmetz could cross the Moselle and attack the French
rear. The combination was strong, but the Emperor, as we have stated,
had then no idea of assuming the offensive in any direction, his only
anxiety being to seek a temporary shelter behind the Meuse.

Throughout the 13th, the German Corps, horse and foot, sprang forward,
displaying that alacrity and hardihood which had marked their conduct
from the outset of the war. The Dragoon brigade of the Guard swooped
down upon Dieulouard, and finally sundered the direct railway
communication between Chalons and Metz. Two other cavalry brigades,
forming the 5th Division, entered Pont à Mousson early in the morning,
and were followed by half the 10th Corps from Delme. In order to
hide, as far as possible, the movements of the Second Army, an entire
division of cavalry, the 6th, was employed; one brigade extending from
Courcelles sur Nied, to Borny on the Moselle, and the other posted
at Verny supporting the front line, and linked itself by patrols to
the 5th at Pont à Mousson. The 1st Division of Cavalry, during the
forenoon, crossed the Nied at Pange, and occupied the villages to the
right and left, so that a continuous line of mounted men stretched
from the Nied to the Moselle. Behind this barrier, the several Corps
toiled forward in full security. At the close of the day, however, only
one-half the 10th Corps was over the Moselle, the other moiety being
one march to the rear; the head of the 3rd Corps stood at Buchy; the
9th at Herny; the 12th at Chemery; the 2nd, now complete, at St. Avold;
the Guard at Lémoncourt, and the 4th at Chateau Salins.

By this time, the Third Army, except the 6th Corps, and the Baden
Division which had been directed upon Strasburg, had made its way
through the defiles of the Vosges, had emerged into the valley of the
Upper Saar, and was, therefore, in direct communication with the Second
Army; so that the German host occupied a wide region extending from
Sarrebourg to villages in front of Metz; yet at the vital points the
Corps stood near enough to support each other should it be necessary
to assemble on a field of battle. The passage of the Vosges had been
obstructed only by nature and the forts of Bitsche and Phalsbourg.
These were turned, and the hardships of cross roads and restricted
supplies had been overcome. The divisions trickled through the valleys
on a broad front, gathering up as they touched the Saar and the country
of lakes about Fenestrange. As Phalsbourg did not command the railway,
that important highway fell into the hands of the Germans. The tunnels
in the Zorn valley west of Saverne had not been destroyed, and the
whole line was complete, yet it could not be used for the transport
of troops and stores until a later period. On the 13th, when the
First Army was closing in on the French outside Metz, and the Second
heading for the Moselle, the Third quitted the Upper Saar, and, once
more expanding, approached on a broad front the valley of the Meurthe.
During the next day, when their comrades were hotly engaged with the
enemy, they reached the banks of that stream, and their forward cavalry
rode into the streets of Lunéville and Nancy, the old capital of
Lorraine. At this critical moment, Marshal MacMahon was hastening to
Chalons; De Failly, after having been ordered hither and thither from
hour to hour, had received final orders—he was to join the Marshal; but
Douay’s 7th Corps, although Dumont’s Division had arrived, increasing
the total to about 20,000 men and 90 guns, had not yet been, and was
not for three days, directed from Belfort upon the great camp in the
plains of Champagne.

                             CHAPTER VII.

                    VON MOLTKE KEEPS THE WHIP HAND.

Weary of his task, weakened in body by a painful malady, depressed in
mind by a series of disasters, and worried by advice from Paris, the
Emperor Napoleon, on the evening of the 12th of August, transferred
to Marshal Bazaine the burden which he could no longer bear. Whatever
may have been his other aptitudes, he was not born to command Armies
in the field nor had he that power of selection which may enable an
inferior to choose and clothe with his authority a superior man. Had a
Radetzky, instead of an Emperor, commanded the Austrian Army in 1859
it is probable that the stability of the “dynasty” would have been
tried by defeat and the unity of Italy deferred until a later day.
Whether the Emperor Napoleon recognized his incompetence, or whether,
as he often did, he yielded to pressure, matters little except to the
students of character. He nominally gave up the command, yet retained
a certain indefinite control, and he placed at the head of his Army
a Marshal who, although the senior in rank to the recently promoted
Marshal Lebœuf, the late Chief of the Staff, was still the junior of
Marshal Canrobert; both, fortunately, were loyal men, and the latter
ready to serve under his junior. Yet it is doubtful whether Bazaine
ever exercised that moral ascendency which is essential at all times,
and never more so than at a crisis when the fate of Armies depends
not only on wise direction, but prompt and willing obedience. The
Marshal, appointed on the 12th, did not take up his command until the
next day, and then he was required to remedy in less than twenty-four
hours the deep-seated mischief produced by a fortnight of terrible
blundering. His special task was to transport the Army over the
Moselle. Four days earlier that might have been done without a shot
being fired, because even if the German horse had come up to look on
they must have been idle spectators as their infantry comrades were
far in the rear. The fatal error was committed when the Emperor did
not overrule all opposition, and, adhering with unswerving firmness to
his first thought, neither halt, ponder, nor rest until the Moselle
flowed between him and his foes. The military position on the morning
of the 7th dictated that step; his adversaries believed or surmised
that he would take it, because it was the right step to take. Nor can
we doubt that, as Commander-in-Chief, Louis Napoleon, who had a little
of “le flair militaire,” saw at once the proper course, but that, as
Emperor, he dared not, on reflection, run the risk. It was a false
calculation, even from a political standpoint, because, so long as he
was in the field with, or at the head of an Army, his republican and
monarchical enemies would not have moved, and time would have been
gained. By retiring promptly over the Moselle, and leaving Metz to
defend itself, he might have been defeated in battle or manœuvred back
upon Paris; but there would have been no Sedan and no Metz, and even
the Parisians would have hesitated to plunge headlong into civil war
when a French Army was still afoot, and a formidable host of invaders,
pressing on its weaker array, was “trampling the sacred soil.” The fate
of the campaign about Metz was, then, really decided when the Emperor
did not avail himself of the days of grace, beat down all opposition,
and compel his Marshals and Generals to march their troops over the
Moselle. Neither Bazaine nor any one officer present with the Army is
entitled to be called a great captain; but whatever he was, the blame
of failure does not rest on him alone; it must be shared, in a far
greater degree, by those who preceded him in command. It is necessary
to insist on this fact, because one of the most valuable lessons taught
by the campaign would be lost were the capital error committed by
the Imperial Staff, when the order for retreat was countermanded and
five days were wasted in abortive operations, not described with the
emphasis it deserves. Campaigns have been lost as much by postponed
retreats as by rash advances; and it was the ill-fortune of the French
Generals in August, 1870, to present egregious examples of both forms
of fatal error.

                     _The French Propose to Move._

When Marshal Bazaine took over the command, on the morning of the
13th, he was required to do in haste what his superiors might have
done at leisure. The prolonged indecision of the Imperial mind, held
in suspense down to the last moment and against its better judgment,
between the alternative of attack or retreat, was disastrous; no
margin was allowed for error of design, error in execution, and—the
unforeseen. The Emperor had ordered Coffinières, the Governor of Metz,
to build as many bridges as he could above and below the place, and
the General declares, what no one disputes, that he did construct from
twelve to fifteen bridges, which provided seven lines of march over
the stream. He also mined the permanent bridges above the fortress, so
that on the 12th facilities for crossing abounded, and the means of
destruction were prepared. Then came in the unforeseen. Rain had fallen
heavily, and consequently the Moselle rose, flowed over the trestle
bridges, damaged the rafts, disconnected the pontoons with the banks,
and spread far and wide over the approaches. In short, the increase
in the volume of water was so great and unusual, if not unparalleled,
that the calamity was attributed to the Germans—they must, it was said,
have destroyed the sluices near Marsal and have allowed the lake water
of that region free access to the Moselle—as if they did not wish to
cross the river themselves! Be the cause what it might, there was the
obstruction; so that the first information received by the Marshal
was that the retreat, which he had been ordered to execute, could not
begin until the next day, except by Canrobert’s 6th Corps, which was
near permanent bridges. Consequently, the Army remained another day
on the right bank. The Corps were in position between forts Queleu
and St. Julien, Frossard on the right, Decaen in the centre, and De
Ladmirault on the left, the Guard being in rear of the centre behind
Borny, where Marshal Bazaine had set up his head-quarters. Practically
the line was a curve extending from the Seille to the banks of Moselle
below Metz; and the defensive obstacles were a watercourse with steep
banks, patches of dense woods, two châteaus, or country houses, which
were readily made defensible, and of course the villages and farms
scattered over the pleasant fields. The main body of the Army was
covered throughout its front by outposts thrown forward towards the
Metz-Saarbrück railway on the right, beyond the brook in the centre,
and about Vremy, Nouilly, and Servigny on the left. So they stood all
day, some of them aware that the Germans were dangerously near; more
who were anxious to get over the river; and yet others who would have
staked everything upon the risk of a battle, so intolerable is suspense
to men of ardent and excitable temperaments. The night passed over
quickly, and on the 14th, yet not until a late hour in the forenoon,
the Corps began to file off to the rear. Canrobert was already across;
Frossard sent his guns and horsemen over the town bridges, while his
infantry splashed through the meadows and over the partially submerged
temporary constructions; and leaving Grenier’s division to cover
his retreat, De Ladmirault set out for the left bank over the Isle
Chambière. The Marshal at Borny, with his old Corps, now under Decaen,
and having the Guard in support, remained to protect the extensive and
perilous movement to the rear in the face of a watchful and intrepid

Released on the evening of the 12th from the imperative orders which
held him fast, and directed to move forward upon the French Nied,
General von Steinmetz advanced the next day with characteristic
alacrity. Two Corps, the 7th and the 1st, were posted on a short line
between Pange and Les Etangs, the 8th being held back at Varize on
the German Nied, and the two cavalry divisions being thrown round the
flanks, General von Golz, who commanded the twenty-sixth brigade,
took the bold step of transferring it to the left, or French, bank
of the stream, and he thus came into contact with the outposts of
Decaen’s 3rd Corps. Nevertheless, along the whole line, on the evening
of the 13th and morning of the 14th, each side maintained a strictly
observant attitude, and held aloof from hostile action; the French
because they wished to glide off unassailed, the Germans because
their Commander-in-Chief desired to secure a solid footing for the
Second Army on the left bank of the Moselle before the French retired.
Watched as these were by keen-sighted horsemen, they could not stir
without being seen; and so soon as the state of the Moselle permitted
a movement to the rear, the fact was reported to the German chiefs.
A Hussar party notified, about eleven, that Frossard’s outposts were
falling back; a little later that the tents were down; and then that
columns of all arms were retiring. So it was in the centre and on the
left; Decaen’s Corps remained, but two divisions of De Ladmirault’s
Corps, it was noted, were no longer on the ground they had held in the
morning. General von Manteuffel, inferring that De Ladmirault might
have gone to join in an attack upon the 7th Corps, at once put two
divisions under arms, a fortunate precaution, though suggested by an
erroneous inference. In front of the 7th Corps, the facts admitted of
no misinterpretation. The enemy was plainly in retreat, and General von
Golz felt that it was his duty to interrupt the process. Therefore,
about half-past three, notifying his intention to the Divisional
Commanders of his Corps, and requesting support from the 1st, a request
promptly granted, Von Golz sprang forward to attack the French, in full
reliance upon the readiness and energy with which his superiors and
comrades would follow him into the fray. His bold resolve did stop the
retreat, and his onset brought on, late in the afternoon,

                   _The Battle of Colombey-Nouilly._

The scene of this sharp but severe conflict was the gentle uplands
immediately to the eastward of Metz, and a little more than cannon-shot
beyond the forts which forbid access to that side of the place. The
village of Borny, indeed, is nearly on a line with the Fort des Bordes,
and no point of the area within which the action raged is more than
three miles from the fortifications. The ground slopes upward from
the Moselle, rising into undulating hills, the summits of which are
two or three hundred feet above the bed of the stream. Near to Metz
these elevations are clothed with copses devoid of underwood, the great
patches of verdure extending on a curve from Grimont close to the
Moselle, as far as the right bank of the Seille. To the northward are
more woods just outside the battlefield, the area of which was, from
north to south, included between them and the railway to Saarbrück. A
little to the north of this line, near Ars-Laquenexy, a village on the
road from Sarreguemines, were the sources of a rivulet which flowed
northward along the whole front of the French position, receiving on
its way brooks which trickle down the hollows in the hills to the
eastward. The heights east of the stream were bare of wood, and the
most prominent objects were the village and church tower of St. Barbe
on the crown of a rounded hill to the north-east. From this elevated
hamlet another brook rose, and found its way along the bed of a gully
to Lauvalliers, where all the watercourses united, and, under the
name of La Vallières, ran thence to the Moselle. The French troops,
four divisions of Decaen’s Corps, were posted in the woods, and on
the heights above the first-mentioned rivulet from the neighbourhood
of Ars-Laquenexy to the point where all the streamlets joined. The
outposts were in Mercy le Haut, sometimes called Mercy les Metz, in the
woods facing Ars-Laquenexy, in the Château D’Aubigny and Montoy, beyond
the brook, in Colombey, a village on the south bank, and in Nouilly,
a large village in the St. Barbe ravine. Beyond the confluence of the
hill streams stood a division of De Ladmirault’s Corps upon the high
ground east of Mey, and it was this body which had its outguards in
Nouilly. Although it was divided by the brook Vallières on the left,
the French position was strong, chiefly because the approaches were
through defiles, over open ground, or up steep banks, but also because
the woods afforded shelter to the infantry of the defenders. Three
great roads intersected the field—one from Pange, through Colombey, to
Borny, a second from Saarbrück, which, after passing La Planchette,
ran, at Bellecroix, into the third, which came from Saarlouis, and
passed through Lauvalliers, entering Metz near the fort called Les
Bordes. The Germans, early in the morning, were on the hills to the
eastward, the 1st Corps being beyond St. Barbe, and the 7th near,
and west of, Pange, with outposts well forward, and both cavalry and
infantry in practical contact with the enemy, into whose position they
looked from all sides.

                         _Von Golz Dashes In._

It was the spectacle of a departing and decreasing host which made the
eager Von Golz, without awaiting permission, dash impetuously forward
with his brigade. So energetic was the onset that the French were at
once driven out of the Château d’Aubigny, Montoy, and La Planchette.
The usual tactics were applied, the companies working together, turning
a flank where the front was too strong, and following up a success
until the weight of fire brought them to a halt, or even thrust them
back. The batteries attached to the brigade came at once into action
and persisted, though they were hard hit by the French. But the
advance of Von Golz was not to be arrested, and the impetus of his
first movement forward carried part of the brigade over the ravine and
watercourse, and into the village and inclosures of Colombey. That
point, however, was the limit of his progress, for the French developed
strong lines of skirmishers in the woods, and although they were
unable to expel the audacious intruders, these were obliged to expend
all their energy upon holding what they had won. On the right, that is
to the north of Colombey, the assailants were brought to a stand on the
eastern edge of the ravine, and at this early stage the farms, gardens
and houses of Colombey formed a salient offensive angle exposed to the
brunt of the French fire from the side of Borny.

At the first indication of a combat, General von Manteuffel, two of
whose divisions were already under arms, sent their advance guards down
the hills and through the hollow ways from St. Barbe; joined his line
of battle on to the right of Von Golz and fell smartly on the outpost
of Grenier’s division which De Ladmirault had left about Mey to cover
his retrograde march upon the Moselle. The noise of combat, also, and
the appeals sent in from the daring brigadier, put the rest of the 7th
Corps in motion, so that the 14th as well as the 13th Division sprang
to arms and approached the fight. General von Zastrow, however, did not
quite approve of the temerity of his subordinate; but seeing that the
Corps was committed to an engagement, he permitted General von Glümer
to use the twenty-sixth brigade on the right and General von Woyna to
employ the twenty-eighth on the left while he held the twenty-seventh
in reserve. In like manner, the French turned fiercely on their
adversaries. Canrobert and Frossard were over the Moselle, but Decaen’s
four divisions were speedily arrayed; the Guard behind them fell in and
marched Brincourt’s brigade towards the Seille to protect Montaudon’s
right; and De Ladmirault instantly counter-marched his two divisions,
moving De Lorencez towards the north-east, hoping to turn the right
of Manteuffel, and ordering De Cissey, who had partially crossed the
Moselle, to reinforce Grenier at Mey. About five o’clock, then, in
consequence of the hardihood of a brigadier, a furious action raged
along the whole French front, towards which comrades were hurriedly
retracing their steps, and upon which adversaries were hastening
forward with equal ardour.

The rapid development of an attack, which had in it some elements of a
surprise, alike unwelcome and unexpected, and the tenacity with which
a few battalions clung steadfastly to the advantage gained, astonished
but did not disconcert the French, who frankly answered the challenge
of their foes. Nevertheless, the opening movements of the 1st Corps
were as successful as those of Von Golz. The artillery, always foremost
in this campaign, going straight and swiftly to the front, soon had
batteries in position, protected by cavalry, while behind them on the
roads from Saarlouis and Saarbrück the infantry were quickly moving up.
The leading battalions of the 1st Division poured through and round
Noisseville and Nouilly, pressing back the French skirmishers and,
following them fast, actually stormed the barricaded village of Mey,
directly under Grenier’s main position in the wooded hill above. The
2nd Division directed upon Montoy, Lauvalliers and the mills at the
confluence of the streams, fell on with alacrity; but the resistance
was so keen that although they soon wrested the eastern, they suffered
great loss and were once promptly repulsed by the defenders, when
attempting to master the western bank. Yet, aided by the fire of
batteries concentrated south of the St. Barbe ravine, these persistent
troops ultimately crowned the ascent, and established the front of
battle on the French side of the brook throughout its length. From
one point, however, the French could not be dislodged. There was a
cross road leading from Colombey to Bellecroix. It was a hollow way,
bordered by trees two or three deep, and having in front, by way of
salient, a little fir wood. This position effectually frustrated every
effort of the Germans either to debouch from Colombey or push forward
towards Bellecroix. Naturally strong and valiantly held, it was not
carried until nearly seven o’clock, and then only by the repeated
onsets of the twenty-fifth brigade which Von Zastrow, about half-past
five, had permitted to take a share in an engagement which he did not
like, but which he was bound to sustain. Thus was Von Golz succoured
and partially relieved from the heavy pressure put on him; a pressure
further mitigated by the advance of the twenty-eighth brigade, 7th
Corps, on his left, and the capture of the wood of Borny. Still further
to the left the 18th Division of the 9th Corps, which had marched up
from Buchy on hearing the cannonade, and some cavalry appeared on the
field towards dark and thus added to the disquietude of Montaudon on
the French right who, however, held fast to his main position above

The action on the French right and centre may fairly be regarded as an
indecisive combat, although the front occupied in the morning had been
driven inwards, and the daring assailant had won some ground. On the
French left the combat had been equally fierce, but less favourable
to the defenders. General de Ladmirault, indeed, when obliged to turn
and succour his comrade and subordinate, Grenier, had at once resolved
to assume the offensive. It was a timely determination, for Grenier’s
troops had been pushed back and shaken, and, if left without aid, they
would have been driven under the guns of St. Julien. But the approach
of De Cissey, and the threatening direction imparted to De Lorencez,
at once altered the aspect of affairs: for De Cissey struck in with
vigour, and the German troops which had entered Mey retreated fast
upon Nouilly; then General von Manteuffel, hastening the march of his
brigades which were still on the way to the field formed his line
to the north-west, between Servigny, Nouilly, and the mills at the
confluence of the brooks, with a reserve at Servigny. As the guns, like
the troops, arrived successively, they were arrayed on the new line,
and, before De Ladmirault could develop his flank attack effectively,
the 1st Corps had ninety guns in position between Lauvalliers and Poix,
which enabled them to bar any infantry advance upon St. Barbe. The
effect of this disposition was to frustrate the aggressive designs of
De Ladmirault, but he is entitled to the credit of having saved his
exposed division, and also of having made the only movement during
the day which had the semblance of a real endeavour to strike for
victory against a foe whose troops and artillery were plainly coming
up in detachments along the whole line. Nor can it be denied that his
vehement onset drove back the Germans, and recovered a large extent
of ground up to the skirts of Nouilly and the water mills. Moreover,
it gave great assistance to Aymard’s Division of Decaen’s Corps, and
enabled it, at one moment, to scatter the companies operating in the
angle formed by the streams, and drive them headlong over the ravine
upon Lauvalliers. But the advent of German battalions, and the action
of the guns, finally restored the combat, and as the twilight deepened
into darkness the German right once more gained the ascendency, and the
French divisions retired to their bivouacs nearer to Metz.

Long after the sun had set, portions of the 1st Corps still arrived on
the scene; but then the battle was over. General de Ladmirault, three
years afterwards, naturally proud of his conduct, insisted that the
French had won the day. The German accounts, however, place the fact
beyond dispute, since they show that the leading troops of the 1st
Corps did reach Vautoux, Mey, and Villers l’Orme, which proves that
the adversary must have retired towards Bellecroix and the banks of
the Moselle. No doubt the Germans were wisely drawn back, at a late
hour, and on that ground the French put in a claim to the victory. For
General Steinmetz had ridden on to the field just as the contest was
coming to an end. He was angry because a battle had been fought, and
apprehensive lest a counter-attack in force should be made at dawn;
so he ordered the 1st and 7th Corps to retire upon the positions they
occupied on the 13th. Nevertheless, Von Zastrow, who did not receive
the order, insisted that his Corps should bivouac under arms on the
battlefield, so that the wounded might be collected, and the honour of
the Army vindicated.

_The End of the Battle._

In this action the French lost not quite four thousand, and the Germans
nearly five thousand men; on both sides more than two hundred officers
had been killed or wounded, General Decaen, commanding the 3rd Corps,
mortally, while Bazaine and Castagny were slightly hurt. The French
had actually on the field, including the Guard in reserve, with one
brigade in the front line, three Corps d’Armée; for, though Lorencez
did not press far forward, still the whole force under De Ladmirault
was present, and in action. The Germans brought up successively two
Corps and one Division, but a large portion of the 1st could not reach
the scene of actual fighting until dark. It is impossible to ascertain
exactly, and difficult to estimate the numbers engaged; but one fact
is manifest—that the German assailants were numerically inferior,
especially during the first two hours; that the disproportion was only
lessened between six and seven; and that, at no time, were the French
fewer in number. Marshal Bazaine emphatically states, in his report to
the Emperor, that he held his position without employing the Guard,
which is true, but it is not less true that the whole front of his
line was driven in; and that he stood at the close within the range of
the heavy guns in the forts. The French fought well, but they fought
a defensive battle, and that is why they exacted from the assailant
a much heavier penalty than he inflicted on them. The retreat of the
Imperialists was delayed; but in the Great Head-quarter Staff serious
misgivings began to spring up, and a fear lest the habit of bringing on
improvised battles might not become a real source of danger. An able
and enterprising General in command of the French at Spicheren and
Borny would have read a severe lesson to German advance-guards, and
would have made them pay for their temerity.

Not until a late hour did the news of the battle reach the king, who
had established his head-quarters at Herny, on the railway. Prince
Frederick Charles, at Pont à Mousson, was only informed of the event
the next morning. His Army, the Second, had been engaged in marching
up to and towards the Moselle, and at eventide the several Corps
halted at these points. The 4th Corps was over the Seille, and not far
from Custines and Marbache, places just below the confluence of the
Meurthe and Moselle; the Guard had one division a little lower down
at Dieulouard; the 10th Corps, entire, was at Pont à Mousson, with a
brigade to the westward; the 3rd, the 9th, and the 12th, were facing
the Moselle between Pont à Mousson and the left of the First Army,
prepared either to frustrate a French advance up the right bank—a
possible movement always present to the mind of Von Moltke—or cross the
river. The 2nd Corps had come up to Falquemont; and a Reserve Landwehr
Division, under General Kummer, was being organized at Saarlouis. To
complete the survey, it should be added that Gneisenau’s Brigade, sent
to surprise Thionville, an enterprise which failed, was returning
to rejoin the First Army; and that on the evening of the 14th, the
foremost troops of the Crown Prince’s Army were some squadrons of
cavalry in Nancy, and an infantry brigade in Lunéville.

_The French Retreat._

Throughout the night the wearied French divisions, which had been
either engaged in combat or standing under arms, filed over the
Moselle, and the Emperor took up his quarters at Longeville, outside
the town. Marshal Bazaine’s order, dated the 13th, directed the whole
Army on the road to Gravelotte, whence one portion was to continue
by Mars la Tour, and the other turn off to the right and march on
Conflans. The rigorous construction of the Marshal’s order yields
that interpretation, but he contended, at his trial, that he merely
indicated the general lines of retreat upon Verdun, and that the Staff
and Corps Commanders should have used any and every road or track
which would have served the main purpose. There are, or at least were,
in 1870, only two roads out of Metz available for the march of heavy
columns of troops of all arms and large trains—the excellent highway
to Gravelotte, which is a long defile, and the road through Woippy,
turning the uplands on the north. All the intermediate lanes or
cross-roads are rugged and narrow, and only one, that passing by Lessy,
has or had any pretension to the character of an inferior village
road. Guns and carts can move along and up them in Indian file, but
not easily if numerous, and nowhere at a good pace. Thus, even, on the
14th, the Corps of Frossard and Canrobert, who both started late, found
the Gravelotte road so encumbered by trains that they could only make
their way slowly, and did not arrive at Rozerieulles until after dark.
The Emperor was still at Longeville, anxiously awaiting the issue of
the fight which revived all his apprehensions. Metz was excited and
alarmed, and the streets were crowded during the afternoon and evening,
with passing soldiers, guns, baggage waggons and provision carts. Night
brought no rest, for the Guard and the 3rd Corps came hastily over the
river, and were densely packed inside the town and outside the ramparts
in the space between the walls and Mount St. Quentin; while General de
Ladmirault was engaged until morning in passing his divisions across
the Isle Chambière, and Metman had also strayed from Bellecroix to that
side of the town.

Marshal Bazaine had quitted Borny at dusk. He rode through Metz “with
difficulty,” and made his way to the Imperial head-quarters. Here
Napoleon, who was in bed, welcomed him with his usual kindness, and
when the Marshal explained his fears lest the Germans should cut in
on his line of retreat, and referring to his wound, begged to be
superseded, the Emperor, he writes, “touching my bruised shoulder
and the fractured epaulette, gracefully said, ‘It will be nothing,
an affair of a few days, and you have just broken the charm.’”
Apparently, Napoleon still clung to the belief that the allies he had
sought would come to his aid. “I await an answer from the Emperor of
Austria and the King of Italy,” he said; “compromise nothing by too
much precipitation, and, above all things, avoid fresh reverses.” He
counted on one sovereign whom he had defeated in battle, and another
whom he had helped to enlarge his kingdom, and he counted in vain,
partly because he was unsuccessful, but chiefly because the national
political interests of both countries prevailed over the gratitude felt
by Victor Emmanuel, and the desire to turn the tables on the House of
Hohenzollern which was still strong in the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine.

“You will drag us out of this hornet’s nest, Marshal, won’t you?”
exclaimed an officer, as Bazaine quitted the Imperial quarters. It was
a task beyond his strength. When day dawned a thick fog shrouded the
valley of the Moselle, and before the camp at Longeville was astir, a
shell from the opposite bank burst near a tent, “cut a Colonel in two,”
to use the soldatesque language of Marshal Canrobert, “carried off the
leg of a battalion commander, and wounded two officers standing near a
drummer.” The lucky shot came from a patrol of German cavalry, which
had ridden forward as far as the railway station, unopposed, and its
commander, observing a camp at Longeville, had brought his guns into
action, and proved, once again, that the hornets were abroad and making
a bold use of their offensive weapons. A battery hastily ran out, and
the heavy metal of St. Quentin drove off the intruders; but they had
learned that the foe was over the river before they retired. Soon
afterwards, by Bazaine’s order, a mine was fired, and one section of
the railway bridge was destroyed.

Then the retreat was continued. Finding the road obstructed by an
endless stream of carts and waggons, Marshal Lebœuf turned aside, and
struggling on, amid transport vehicles, threaded his way by Lessy and
Chatel St. Germain to Vernéville, where about seven in the evening he
had assembled the tired infantry Divisions of Castagny and Montaudon;
but his cavalry and reserve artillery did not reach the bivouac until
night; while Aymard’s Division was forced to halt in the defile, and
Metman was at Sansonnet in the Moselle valley. Frossard, followed by
Canrobert, had marched during the day as far as Rezonville, where both
halted; and the Guard with the Emperor and Prince Imperial attained
Gravelotte. General de Ladmirault did not stir at all on the 15th,
he put a strict construction on Bazaine’s orders, and affected also
to be uncertain whether he was to continue his retreat or not. But
he had allowed Lorencez to press through the town and thrust himself
into the Lessy defile, where his troops, unable to get on, had to pass
the night. These disjointed and irregular movements testify to the
confusion of a hurried retreat, to the flurry which had got the upper
hand, and to the absence of anything like a firm control over troops
and generals. How could it be otherwise? The Emperor still commanded,
or was believed to command, and it is plain that at no time did the
Marshal secure prompt and cheerful obedience, or inspire confidence,
always essential to success, and never more so than when an Army has
to be extricated from what the Imperial Guardsman graphically called a
“hornet’s nest.”

                   _The Germans cross the Moselle._

Far otherwise had the hours been employed by the German host. Early in
the morning King William had ridden from Herny to the heights above the
battlefield, and there the Head-quarter Staff, from actual observation,
were able to form a correct judgment on the actual state of affairs.
At first they took precautionary measures against a possible counter
attack, and it was not until eleven o’clock that, evidence sufficient
to convince Von Moltke having come in, decisive steps were taken. All
the Corps of the Second Army were directed upon or over the Moselle,
the 1st Corps was moved to Courcelles-Chaussy; and the 7th was posted
at Courcelles sur Nied to guard the railway line and the depôts; and
the 8th was on its left, echeloned on the Lunéville road. At nightfall
the 3rd Corps had crossed the Moselle between Pagny and Novéant,
where they found the bridge intact; the 10th had one division at Pont
à Mousson and one westward at Thiaucourt; the Guard was at Dieulouard,
and the 4th Corps astride the river at Marbache-Custines. The 2nd Corps
had come up to Han sur Nied. The Crown Prince’s advanced troops were at
Haney, St. Nicholas on the Meurthe, and Bayon on the Upper Moselle.

                   _The Cavalry beyond the Moselle._

But the most interesting and effective operations were those carried
out by the 5th Cavalry Division, commanded by General von Rheinbaben.
They had traversed the Moselle on the 14th, and were directed to gain
the Verdun road in order to ascertain the exact whereabouts of the
French. At the same time the 3rd Cavalry Division attached to the First
Army was instructed to pass the river below Metz and push out towards
Briey; but the French had removed all the boats, no crossing could be
effected, and the division was employed elsewhere. No such obstacles
arrested the 5th Division. It consisted of three strong brigades under
Von Redern, Von Barby, and Von Bredow, in all thirty-six squadrons, and
was accompanied by two batteries of horse artillery. Leaving Barby at
Thiaucourt to await the arrival of Bredow coming up from the Moselle,
Redern marched through the fog at four in the morning to La Chausée,
whence he detached two squadrons towards the Verdun road. During their
absence Von Redern, riding on towards Xonville, discovered and was
fired on by a body of French cavalry on the hills about Puxieux. These
were French dragoons detached from De Forton’s division, then _en
route_ for Mars la Tour, and they were reinforced from the main body as
soon as the vedettes had opened fire. The French, led by Prince Murat,
ascended the hill, and soon after the Germans had brought a battery to
bear Murat withdrew his men, followed by Von Redern. On crowning the
ridge De Forton’s division was plainly seen moving in the valley, or
halting near Mars la Tour, supported by twelve guns. Von Redern, who
did not think it prudent to attack, retired until a fold of the hills
gave him protection. Here he was joined by two squadrons of hussars,
which had approached Rezonville, captured nine prisoners, and when
pursued had got deftly away. The sound of the cannon had attracted the
rest of the brigade, and Von Redern again moved towards Mars la Tour,
and again drew off without a fight. But by this time the cannonade had
called up both Barby and Bredow, so that there were soon thirty-four
squadrons and two batteries on the ground. The French General, De
Forton, who believed erroneously that German infantry occupied Puxieux,
was of opinion that he had fought a successful skirmish; yet instead
of closing with enemies who were actually close to the line of retreat
upon Verdun, he fell back as far as Vionville, and went into camp.
Three French divisions of horse in the van of the retiring Army allowed
a German division to sit down within a short distance of the Verdun
road and many miles from all infantry support. On the other hand, a
squadron of Uhlans pushed almost to Conflans, and stumbling on Du
Barail’s division, was smartly punished; but a captain of hussars,
during the evening, rode towards Rezonville and halted close enough
to see Frossard’s fantassins cooking their suppers. Meantime, the
Prussian Guard Cavalry, moving north-west from Dieulouard, had placed
its advanced brigade at Thiaucourt; and a squadron of Guard Uhlans
had audaciously summoned the Governor of Toul to surrender. No such
memorable examples of activity can be found in the record of the
French cavalry, which had forgotten the traditions of Napoleon the

                     _Orders for the Flank March._

That evening General von Moltke issued a set of memorable instructions
to General von Steinmetz and Prince Frederick Charles. The First Army
was to leave a corps at Courcelles sur Nied, and place the others at
Arry and Pommérieux, between the Seille and the Moselle. “It is only by
a vigorous offensive movement of the Second Army,” wrote Von Moltke,
“upon the routes from Metz to Verdun by Fresne and Etain that we can
reap the fruits of the victory obtained yesterday. The commander of
the Second Army is intrusted with this operation which he will conduct
according to his own judgment and with the means at his disposal, that
is, all the Corps of his Army.” It was further announced that the King
would transfer his head-quarters to Pont à Mousson in the afternoon
of the 16th. Preparations were thus made to place the whole force on
the left bank of the Moselle, except the 1st Corps, the 3rd Division
of Cavalry, and the 2nd which was still two marches from the river. In
this way Von Moltke hoped to keep the whip hand of his opponents, and
cut them off from the shelter they sought beyond the Meuse.

                     _The Emperor Quits the Army._

Before narrating the battle which the French style Rezonville and
the Germans Vionville-Mars la Tour, we may turn to the Imperial
head-quarters at Gravelotte at dawn on the 16th, because the scene
presents so vivid a contrast to that in the German camp. When Marshal
Bazaine saw the Emperor on the preceding evening walking meditatively
up and down before his quarters, he was surprised by the question,
“Must I go?” The Marshal frankly admitted that he had not been informed
respecting the situation in front, and asked him to wait. “The answer,”
writes Bazaine, appeared to please him, and turning to his suite he
said, loud enough to be heard by all, “Gentlemen, we will remain, but
keep the baggage packed.” The troops, sad and depressed, continued to
defile before the inn; no shout, no vivat was evoked by the sight of
the sovereign and his son. Yet that night the Emperor had made up his
mind. In the morning he summoned Bazaine, who found him in his carriage
with the Prince Imperial and Prince Napoleon. The baggage had already
gone on in the night, and the lancers and dragoons of the Guard,
commanded by General de France, were in the saddle ready to serve as
an escort. Bazaine rode to the side of the carriage, and the Emperor
said, “I have resolved to leave for Verdun and Chalons. Put yourself
on the route for Verdun as soon as you can. The gendarmerie have
already quitted Briey in consequence of the arrival of the Prussians”—a
singularly erroneous statement, but one showing how ill-informed the
head-quarters were from first to last. The Emperor then drove off from
Gravelotte by the road to Conflans, through the wooded ways which were
so soon to be the scene of a sanguinary encounter. Three hours after he
started Von Redern’s guns opened suddenly on the French cavalry camp
near Vionville, and began, by a stroke of surprise, the most remarkable
and best-fought battle of the campaign.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

                     THE FRENCH RETREAT THWARTED.

                       _Vionville—Mars la Tour._

That feebleness and hesitation which had been so conspicuous on the
side of the French from the outset of the campaign were not likely
to cease when dangers and difficulties increased with every passing
hour. The Emperor, while he commanded, had been incapable of taking,
not merely a bold, but any resolution, and the mental qualities of
Marshal Bazaine were not sufficiently far above the average to enable
him to remedy the mischievous effects of the long course of erroneous
conduct to the heritage of which he succeeded. Moreover, neither
Bazaine nor any other French commander, despite recent experiences,
had formed a correct estimate of German energy and enterprise. Least
of all could they believe that a single Corps and two divisions of
cavalry would venture to plant themselves across the road to Verdun.
The evil consequences were increased by the inactivity of the cavalry,
and the bad, unsoldierlike habit of making perfunctory reconnaisances
carried only a mile or so to the front and on the flanks. Marshal
Bazaine’s phrase—“les reconnaissances doivent se faire _comme
d’habitude_”—reveals the whole secret. At Wissembourg, on the 4th of
August, General Abel Douay’s horsemen returned from a short excursion
and reported that no enemy was near; and at eight in the morning of
the 16th, General Frossard was informed by the patrols which had come
in that there was no adversary in force on his front. The German horse
were near at hand, yet De Forton’s cavaliers had not felt out as far
as their bivouac. Marshal Bazaine’s original intention was that the
two corps ordered to follow the Mars la Tour road should start at four
o’clock; and Frossard had his men out in readiness to move at that hour
when a fresh order postponed the march until the afternoon. During
the night Marshal Lebœuf, alarmed at the absence of two divisions and
at the continued sojourn of De Ladmirault in the Moselle valley, had
suggested that it would be better to stand fast until the several Corps
had been once more brought within supporting distance; and Marshal
Bazaine had readily yielded to the suggestion. Still no measures were
taken to ascertain whether foes were approaching or not, and the
soldiers, horse and foot, took up their ordinary camp duties as they
would have done had they been at Chalons in time of peace. The actual
situation, if they had known it, required that every horse, man and gun
should have been in motion at dawn, yet they all lingered; and it may
be said that neither superiors nor subordinates were alive to the peril
in which they stood—not of defeat, still less rout, the odds available
against German enterprise were too great,—but of a blow which would
make them reel and, perhaps, turn them aside from the paths to the

                     _The Vionville Battlefield._

The road from Gravelotte to Verdun passes by the villages of
Rezonville, Vionville and Mars la Tour through a generally open and
undulating country. The ground slopes irregularly and gently upward
on all sides from the highway; the villages on the route are in the
hollows or shallow valleys. North and south of Rezonville a ridge
separated two ravines, the larger, on the east, formed by the Jurée
brook, had its origin north of Gravelotte, the smaller on the west,
came down also from the northern uplands, and parallel to its bed
ran the principal road from Gorze to Rezonville. At the southern
declivity of the ridge, and extending eastward as far as the Moselle,
were a series of forest—the Bois de Vionville, Bois St. Arnould, the
Bois des Ognons, the Bois des Chevaux. To the west and south-west of
Rezonville the country was generally open; but there was a clump of
trees shading a pool near Vionville, and, north of the high road, were
larger patches of woods, named after the village of Tronville. North
also of the highway, and within the French lines, woodlands covered the
hill sides towards St. Marcel, the hamlet of Villers aux Bois being
seated on the highest ground. Along this upper plateau are traces of a
Roman road, running due west, the ancient route from Verdun to Metz;
traces visible also in the fields nearer to the fortress. The French
occupied the higher stretches on the eastern and north-eastern edge of
this irregularly undulating and wooded region. General Frossard was
posted on the left of the line in front of Rezonville; Canrobert on the
heights towards St Marcel; Lebœuf had his troops about Vernéville, the
Guard stood at, and in rear of Gravelotte, and the careless cavalry
brigades under de Forton and Valabrègues had set up their camps west
of Vionville, and thence kept a listless watch towards the heights and
hollows, west and south-west, just in their immediate front.

                      _The French are Surprised._

Suddenly, about nine o’clock, they were struck by shells fired from a
battery which seemed to have sprung out of a rounded hill a few hundred
yards to the west of Vionville. The missiles fell among the tents and
burst about a squadron filing up in watering order to the tree-shaded
pool. In quick succession three additional batteries appeared on the
crest and opening fire added to the confusion below. Murat’s dragoons
broke and fled and, accompanied by the baggage train, horses, carts,
men, galloped and ran off towards Rezonville; and De Gramont’s
troopers, further to the rear, mounted and retired in good order up the
northern slopes, halting on the right of the 6th Corps. The batteries,
six in number, then moved up to a height closer in to Vionville and
smote the infantry camps. They were promptly answered by the guns of
Frossard’s Corps, while his brigades stood to their arms, formed up and
sprang forward with alacrity. About the same time, a solitary German
battery, visible to the south, fired a few rounds into the French left
and then withdrew over the crest unable to bear the storm of Chassepot
bullets which were poured from the aroused and irritated infantry.

The collision, so unwelcome to the French, had been brought about
in this wise. Prince Frederick Charles had ordered the 3rd and 10th
Corps and the 6th Division of Cavalry to start early in the morning
and strike the Verdun road west of Rezonville. As General von
Voights-Rhetz, commanding the 10th, intended to move upon St. Hilaire,
beyond Mars la Tour, he instructed Von Rheinbaben to reconnoitre in the
direction of Rezonville, increased his horse artillery, and supported
him with an infantry detachment from Thiaucourt. About the same time
that the 10th Corps advanced its foremost brigades from Thiaucourt,
and the rest from Pont à Mousson, the 3rd Corps and the 6th Division
of Cavalry also made for the hills west and south of Vionville, the
right division proceeding by Gorze, and the left, by Buxières, towards
Tronville. Thus these two Corps were moving on two parallel curves, the
3rd being next to the enemy, and the 10th on the outer and larger arc.
The Prince and his Generals did not anticipate a battle, but they all
hoped to fall in with and punish a rear-guard, or, by striking far to
the westward, intercept and compel the French Army to halt and fight
before it reached the Meuse. It was Rheinbaben’s abrupt and thorough
home-thrust which revealed the fact that the French had not passed
Rezonville, or, at least, that a large part of the Army was near that
village. His advance-guard, three squadrons and a battery, had moved
within musket-shot of De Forton’s camp “without encountering a single
patrol;” and, taking advantage of such supineness, his artillery,
hastening forward, created the panic near Vionville, which has already
been described. Frossard’s Corps, which always behaved well, speedily
took up defensive positions. Bataille occupied Vionville and Flavigny,
and the high ground above the villages; Vergé prolonged the line
to the left, and placed one brigade facing south to front the Bois
de Vionville, and connect the array with Lapasset’s brigade on the
ridge which, from the north, overlooked the Bois St. Arnould and the
ravine leading to Gorze. The 6th Corps, encamped north of the main
road, continued the line on that side, and rapidly developed a front
facing south-west between the highway and the Roman road. The sound
of the cannonade was heard as far off as Jarny and Conflans, startled
Lebœuf at Vernéville, and aroused the Marshal, busy in his quarters at

                     _The Third Corps strikes in._

Rheinbaben’s bold horsemen and gunners had done their work; they had
gained for the oncoming infantry that species of moral advantage which
always accrues from a surprise. As they fell back to more sheltered
positions behind the swelling hills, the right wing of the 3rd Corps,
under Stülpnagel, entered the field from the south; the left wing,
directed by the fiery Alvensleben himself, came down into the arena
from the south-west, and several batteries, urged on by Von Bulow,
dashed up and formed the centre of the assailants. Indeed, the guns
were in action before the infantry could march over the distance
between their starting points and the outward spray of the French
line of battle; so that for an appreciable interval the groups of
batteries had to depend upon themselves. Yet not for long. Stülpnagel’s
battalions plunged into the dense woods on the right, and waged a close
combat with the skirmishers of Jolivet’s brigade, who were slow to
give ground. Beyond the thickets, the left wing of the division drove
Valazé’s skirmishers from an eminence, the highest in those parts, and
a battery was speedily in action on its bare summit. By degrees, as
they came up, the battalions of the 10th Brigade went forward on the
left, or western, flank of the height, where the contest, conducted
with vigour on both sides, eddied to and fro, until the German onset,
repeated and sustained, gained the mastery, and cleared the slopes so
effectually that five other batteries, driving up the hill as fast as
they could clear the defile, took ground on its top, and gave support
to the companies in the wood and on the open down. About an hour was
consumed in this desperate work, made all the more arduous because the
German infantry pushed eagerly into the fight, not in compact masses,
but one battalion after another as each struggled up to the front.
Major-General Doering was killed, and many officers went down in
this sanguinary strife: one battalion which dashed forward to resist
a French attack at a critical moment lost every officer. But as it
retired, broken and wasted, the French were smitten in turn by its
comrades, forced to give way, and the position was, at this heavy cost,
secured. For the troops engaged in the forest had now attained the
northern edge of the Bois de Vionville, the batteries on the lofty hill
were safe, and Stülpnagel’s Division was solidly established upon the
most commanding uplands in that part of the field.

To their left rear was the 6th Cavalry Division; but between them and
the fields west of Vionville were no infantry, only lines of guns,
protected by a few squadrons of horse. For the 6th Infantry Division,
coming on from Buxièries, had gradually wheeled to the right until they
faced to the east, the 11th Brigade crossing the high road, north of
Tronville, the 12th moving upon Vionville; so that they formed a line
of attack directed upon Bataille’s division which held Vionville and
Flavigny, having on its right, beyond the Verdun road, the division of
Lafont de Villiers belonging to Canrobert’s Corps. While Stülpnagel was
striving to obtain a grip of the woods and heights on the French left,
Buddenbrock, the other divisional commander, acting under the eyes of
his chief, threw the weight of his division upon the two villages which
covered what was then the French centre. Vionville was first carried
by the usual turning movement, and its capture was followed by the
outburst of a still more murderous conflict. The French had brought
up more and heavier pieces, and these poured a crushing fire into the
village. The Germans answered by continuing the attack on the French
infantry. Yet so confused was the engagement on the bare hill side,
so completely was it a “soldiers’ battle,” such was the swaying to and
fro of the mingled companies which, crushed and mangled, yet welded
themselves together and pressed on, that, once more, the official
German historian renounces the task of minute description. But the
effect of the hurly-burly was soon manifest—Bataille’s entire division,
unable to endure the torment, and seeing its General fall wounded,
went about and retired; Valazé’s brigade, “taken in flank,” says
Frossard, by a German battery, and losing its gallant commander, also
marched off through Rezonville; and the nearest brigade of Canrobert’s
Corps likewise receded, either under pressure or weakened in purpose
by example. The Germans paid a great price for the immense advantage
secured; but as Flavigny fell into their hands, as the left of
Stülpnagel’s Division joined in its capture, and as the front of battle
was now no longer an arc but its chord, the prize was well worth its
cost. The sole reinforcements which had arrived to aid the 3rd Corps,
were two detachments, parts of the same brigade, and pertaining to the
10th which, on their way to join that Corps then moving westward, had
turned aside, attracted by the magnetism of the cannonade. How much of
the success obtained was due to the valour, devotion, and endurance of
the artillery may be gathered from the French narratives. No troops
could have fought with greater hardihood and dash—not fleeting, but
sustained—than the infantry of the 3rd Corps, all Prussians from the
Mark of Brandenburg. But they had their equals among the dauntless
gunners, deserving to be called “_tirailleurs d’artillerie_,” who
literally used their batteries as battalions, dragging them up to the
very outward edges of the fight, often within rifle-shot, and when
pressed, retiring some scores of paces, then halting and opening at
short range upon their pursuers. The line, composed of groups of
batteries, especially in the forenoon, was the backbone of the battle.

                         _Arrival of Bazaine._

Just as Frossard’s infantry, yielding to the vehement pressure,
retreated behind Rezonville, Marshal Bazaine appeared on the scene,
and rode into the thick of the contest. At Frossard’s request he
directed a Lancer regiment, supported by the cuirassiers of the Guard,
to charge and check the pursuers. The Lancers went forth with great
spirit, but soon swerved aside, broken by the infantry fire. The
Guard horsemen, however, led by General du Preuil, rode home upon
the eager and disordered companies who were marching to the east of
the flaming village of Flavigny. But these foot soldiers, reserving
their fire until the mailed cavaliers were within two hundred and
fifty yards, plied them with shot so steadily that the squadrons
swerved to the right and left, only to fall under the bullets from
the rear ranks which had faced about. “The cuirassiers,” says General
du Preuil, “were broken by the enemy’s infantry, which received them
with a murderous fire. After the charge, the wreck of the regiment
rallied at Rezonville, having left behind on the field 22 officers,
24 _sous officiers_, about 200 men and 250 horses. When the regiment
was re-organized, instead of 115 mounted men per squadron, there were
only 62!” Colonel von Rauch had close to Flavigny two Hussar regiments;
with one he pressed on the flying cuirassiers, and with the other
charged the French infantry struggling rearward. Bazaine had just
brought up, and was posting a battery of the Imperial Guard, when the
Hussars charged down upon him, taking the battery in front and flank.
It was here that the Marshal was surrounded, separated for a moment
from his staff, and obliged, as he himself says, to “draw his sword.”
Two squadrons of his escort came to his relief, and a rifle battalion
opened upon the Prussian horse, who had to retreat, leaving behind the
battery which they had temporarily seized. General Alvensleben had
ordered up the 6th Division of Cavalry, but when they arrived, Bazaine
had brought forward the Grenadier Division of the Guard to replace
the 2nd Corps in the front line, for Jolivet’s brigade, on the French
left, had also retired to the high ground in its rear. The 6th formed
up to the south of Flavigny and advanced, but they could not make any
impression upon the re-invigorated enemy, and they drew back, having
lost many officers and men. “This demonstration, apparently without any
result,” says the official German account, “was still useful, since it
provided the artillery with an opportunity so vehemently desired of
pressing up nearer to the front.” In fact, the lines of the artillery
were now between the edge of the wood of Vionville and Flavigny, and to
the right, left, and front of Vionville itself—a distinct approximation
towards the French infantry and guns; so that there were changes on
both sides, with the difference that the French brought up fresh
troops, while the same German guns, horsemen and infantry continued the

The crisis of the battle had now arrived; for General von Alvensleben,
in order to diminish the violent pressure on his left, which was
beyond the Verdun road, had been obliged to thrust his sole reserve
of infantry into the deadly encounter. Colonel Lehmann, commanding a
detachment of the 10th Corps, consisting of three battalions and a
half, had come up to the outskirts of the field in the forenoon, and
he was directed to take post near Tronville. When, in consequence
of the reverse inflicted on Frossard, Bazaine arrayed the Guard in
front of Rezonville and Canrobert put his reserve brigades into line
on their right, and both established their reserve artillery on the
heights to the north and east, Alvensleben sent forward Lehmann’s
battalions, which, with great difficulty, managed to keep their ground
in the copses of Tronville beyond the Verdun road. It was about two
o’clock in the afternoon and the German leader had no reserves, every
foot soldier and gun was engaged, while the greater part of the 10th
Corps was still remote from the field. Luckily for him, the reports
of the fugitive peasantry and the steady advance of the German right
through the southern woods, aroused in the mind of Bazaine a fear that
he might be turned on his left, a fear shared by at least one of his
subordinates. He, therefore, caused the Guard Voltigeurs to form front
to the south in the Bois des Ognons, so as to watch the ravines, down
one of which the Mance flowed to Ars, and in the bed of the other the
Jurée ran to Novéant. Lapasset, who barred the road from Gorze, was
reinforced by a regiment of Grenadiers, and Montaudon’s division of the
3rd Corps was taken from Lebœuf and placed near Malmaison, a little
to the north of Gravelotte. Thus the French line, instead of standing
north and south, faced generally to the south-west, between the Bois
des Ognons and the high ground north of the copses of Tronville. At
this time Lebœuf, with one division and a half—for Metman had not yet
joined him—was moving south-west from Vernéville, and De Ladmirault’s
divisions—for he had quitted the Moselle valley in the morning—were
only just showing their leading troops towards Doncourt. Nevertheless,
Canrobert, who had developed a strong line of guns as well as infantry
on the right of Picard’s Grenadiers, both on the face and flank of
the German left, determined to attempt the recapture of Vionville and
Flavigny. He was led to do so by a belief that the partial cessation of
the German fire indicated exhaustion, and, aided by the whole of his
artillery, he certainly delivered a formidable onset carried up to the
very outskirts of the two villages. It was then that Alvensleben called
upon the cavalry to charge, solely with the object of gaining time and
relieving the wearied foot, and hardly-treated gunners.

                     _Bredow’s Brilliant Charge._

Bredow’s heavy brigade, the 7th Cuirassiers of Magdeburg, and the 16th
Uhlans of Altmark, eight squadrons, from which two were withdrawn
on the march to watch the Tronville Copses, was selected to assail
Canrobert’s destructive batteries and stinging infantry. Von Bredow
drew out his two regiments, led them into the shallow but protecting
hollow on the north of Vionville, and, without pausing, wheeled into
line on the move, so that the array of sabres and lances fronted nearly
eastward. Then breaking into a headlong gallop the troopers rushed
like a torrent over and through the infantry on their broad track and
into the batteries, near the Roman Road, which for the moment they
disorganized. But now the French horse swarmed forward on all sides,
and the survivors of Von Bredow’s heroic men, having cheerfully made
the heavy sacrifice demanded from them, turned about to retreat through
the French infantry, punished as they rode back by De Forton, Gramont,
Murat and Valabrègue who brought up three thousand dragoons, chasseurs
and cuirassiers against the remains of the devoted brigade. Von Bredow
sought safety behind Flavigny, whither Von Redern had ridden up with
a regiment of hussars, but he did not attack because the hostile
cavalry halted in their pursuit. The charge had cost the Magdeburgers
and Altmarkers 14 officers and 363 men, nearly one-half the strength
with which they started on their astonishing ride; but the glorious
remnant had the proud satisfaction of knowing that the two regiments
had put an end to offensive attacks from the side of Rezonville, that
their infantry comrades of the Brandenburg Corps had received effectual
succour in time of need, and that the steadfast artillery had gained
precious moments which they used to prepare for fresh exertions.

                    _The Fight becomes Stationary._

During the next three hours, and, indeed, to the end of the day, the
combat on the German right and centre remained stationary, varied by
desperate attempts to win ground from the Imperial Grenadiers which
cost many lives and achieved no marked success. Seven fresh batteries,
however, came successively into action, so that about four o’clock, the
German line of guns, between the wood of Vionville and Flavigny had
been increased to more than a hundred pieces and their fire effectually
stayed the French from advancing. Some portions of the 7th, 8th and
9th Corps, which had struggled up from the Moselle valley during the
sultry afternoon, entered the woods, were pushed up the ravine road
from Gorze, or were thrown forward in front of the big battery which
was the mainstay of the left wing. Prince Frederick Charles himself
arrived about four o’clock. He had ridden straight from Pont à Mousson
on learning that a serious engagement was afoot, and as he cantered up
to the front he was heartily welcomed by the men of the 3rd Corps which
he had commanded for ten years.

                     _Arrival of the Tenth Corps._

Surveying the scene from the lofty upland above the wood for a time,
he rode off to another eminence near Flavigny, because the stress
of battle was then on the left wing, where the rest of the 10th
Corps, so long absent from the field, had appeared just in time to
encounter the fresh troops which had been led forward by Marshal Lebœuf
and General de Ladmirault. When Von Bredow’s Brigade rode against
Canrobert’s Corps, Von Barby’s horse were sent to guard the extreme
left against a surprise from the masses of French troops gathering
on the Doncourt hills. They pushed far northward, and sustained a
cannonade from the enemy, who soon forced them to retreat; for Lebœuf,
with Aymard’s Division—Bazaine had now called for Nayral’s as well as
Montaudon’s—moved down towards the Tronville thickets, and Ladmirault,
whose infantry had at length reached him from the Moselle valley, sent
Grenier forward in line with Aymard. These two divisions, driving the
horsemen back towards Tronville, at once assailed the woodlands, so
often named, and combining their attack with that of Tixier, whose
division formed the right of Canrobert’s Corps, they expelled the
German infantry from the northern section of the wood. Lehmann’s
Hanoverians and the wreck of the Brandenburgers gave ground slowly,
but, after an hour’s severe bush-fighting, the left of the 3rd Corps
was obliged to yield, and nothing restrained the advancing French
infantry save the terribly effective fire of the German gunners, upon
whom the brunt of the battle fell. As the most forward German guns were
retired south of the highway, Grenier sent three batteries over the
ravine, and fortune seemed, for the first time, to favour the Imperial
soldiers. But, at this trying moment, the 20th Division of the 10th
Corps—the men had already marched that day twenty-seven miles—appeared
on the heights of Tronville. General von Kraatz, its commander,
brought with him eight battalions, four squadrons, and four batteries,
an opportune reinforcement, which had been led thither because the
summons, given by faint reverberations of a heavy cannonade, heard at
Thiaucourt, had been clenched by the arrival of a note written on the
field of battle.

The artillery, as usual, took the lead, hastening to the field across
country, and, before the infantry could advance twenty-four guns in
action north of Tronville, checked the French skirmishers, and obliged
Grenier’s batteries to recross the ravine. Then the foot went into the
wood, and soon chased the French from all the copses except a patch on
the north. At this time, General de Ladmirault, who had been joined by
heavy masses of cavalry, had on the heights, near the farm of Greyère,
abundance of artillery and De Cissey’s Division. On his right ran a
deep and steep ravine towards Mars la Tour; he was about to cross this
obstacle, and had, in fact, entered the hollow, intending to sweep
down upon the German left, when he became aware that a strong hostile
body was approaching from the west. It was General von Schwarzkoppen,
commanding a division of the 10th Corps. He brought on to the field the
38th brigade, diminished, however, by detachments to five battalions,
two companies of pioneers, twelve guns, and six squadrons of Dragoons
of the Guard. General de Ladmirault’s proceedings had been closely
watched by some German horse, and his advance-guard of Chasseurs
d’Afrique had been driven out of Mars la Tour by the Dragoons of the
Guard. Seeing the oncoming enemy, he hastily recrossed the ravine, and
placed De Cissey and his artillery in position to resist any attack.
The intelligence that an enemy had shown himself on the west had run
along the French line, and had induced Grenier and Lebœuf to suspend
their apparently prosperous onset, thus diminishing the pressure upon
Von Kraatz in the Tronville wood, and also on the artillery, which
had been so long engaged near Vionville. General Schwarzkoppen had,
during the day, marched to St. Hilaire on his way to the fords of
the Meuse; but, hearing the cannonade, he halted, sent out patrols,
and finally moved off towards the battle, guided by columns of dust,
clouds of smoke, and the deep-toned muttering of the rival guns.
When he reached Mars la Tours, Voights-Rhetz, the Corps Commander,
rode up. Both he and Prince Frederick Charles, who watched the fight
from a hill above Flavigny, were under the delusion that the French
right could be taken in flank by an attack from Mars la Tour; and
Von Wedell, who commanded the newly-arrived brigade, was ordered to
fall on. But, for once, the German Staff did not show their far-famed
skill; for they did not reconnoitre the ground, nor had they observed
the formidable array of De Cissey’s brigades. Von Wedell’s men dashed
forward with alacrity, but found in their path a deep hollow, which
covered the French front, as well as flank, on that side. Nevertheless,
the battalions, in two lines, hurried down one bank and up the other,
and then met an entire French Division. A brief and bloody fight at
close quarters—the opposing lines were separated in some places by
only fifty yards—ensued; but so continuous and deadly was the French
fire that the sturdy Westphalians had to yield. Their dead and dying
covered the summit, and filled the hollow way; two-thirds of the 16th
Regiment were left on the field, and the whole brigade, shattered into
a shapeless crowd of fugitives, hurried to the rear. Then forward to
their succour came bounding the 2nd Dragoons of the Guard, Colonel von
Auerswald at their head, spurring headlong to the front through the
disordered crowd, taking the hedges and ditches in their stride, and
galloping furiously into the midst of the pursuing French, who had
leaped forward from the right of Grenier’s Division. It was a hopeless
charge—a ride to certain death—but the readiness of the Dragoons saved
the right of the brigade; yet at great cost, for they left dead on the
field their brave Colonel, a Major, and three Captains. Nine officers
in all, and seventeen men were killed; four officers and sixty men were
wounded; while one officer and five men were captured. Two of Count
Bismarck’s sons, privates in this regiment, rode in the charge; the
eldest, Herbert, was shot in the thigh, the youngest, Wilhelm, a stout
trooper, lifted a wounded comrade on to his horse, and carried him off
the field. The charge of the Dragoons enabled the broken battalions to
draw off towards Tronville, but the guns in position still held on near
Mars le Tour, west of which, towards Ville sur Yron, a horse battery
and a squadron of the 2nd Dragoons of the Guard were engaged in a
smart skirmish with a body of Chasseurs d’Afrique. This encounter was
followed shortly afterwards by

                      _The great Cavalry Combat._

Ladmirault had sent six regiments of horse over the gully on his
right—Legrand’s Hussars and Dragoons, Du Barail’s solitary regiment of
Chasseurs d’Afrique, and the superb brigade of Lancers and Dragoons
of the Guards commanded by General de France. On the other side Von
Barby’s brigade had approached Mars la Tour during the fatal attack
upon De Ladmirault’s infantry, and soon after it was joined by two
squadrons of the 4th Cuirassiers, the 10th Hussars, and the 16th
Dragoons. Sweeping round to the north of the village, Barby formed
up his troopers in the narrow space between the Yron and the Greyère
ravine, while Legrand and his comrades showed their compact masses
to the north. The French regiments were placed in echelon, Legrand’s
Hussars, led by General Montaigu, on the left, Gondrecourt’s Dragoons
on his right rear, and next the Guard Lancers and Dragoons. The
Chasseurs d’Afrique were behind all. The first shock fell upon the 13th
Dragoons which, having taken ground to the right, had only time to
wheel partially into line before Montaigu’s Hussars rode through the
squadron’s intervals, and it would have fared ill with the Prussians
had not Colonel von Weise plunged in with the 10th Hussars and overset
the French. Von Barby on the left, at the head of the 16th Uhlans
and 19th Dragoons, met the French Guard Cavalry in full shock, and
then ensued a furious confused fight upon the whole line. Each side
endeavoured to fall upon a flank, and the squadrons swayed to and fro
amid a huge cloud of dust. Suddenly, a squadron of Prussian Guard
Dragoons, returning from a patrol, came riding across country from the
west and struck the flank of the French Guards. Du Barail’s Chasseurs
d’Afrique and Gondrecourt’s Dragoons dashed into the _melée_, but the
Westphalian Cuirassiers drove like a wedge into the opposing ranks,
and the 16th Dragoons fell upon and smote them in flank and rear.
Legrand was killed, Montaigu wounded and a prisoner, and the French
cavalry, wheeling about, rode out of the fight, throwing into disorder
a brigade of Chasseurs, which had been sent by General de Clérambault
to cover the retreat. The Gallic horse had brilliantly sustained
their reputation, yet they were overmatched by the Teutons, who also
lost three commanding officers. But Von Barby was able to reform his
victorious squadrons on the plateau and withdraw them at leisure,
watched, but not pursued, by a squadron of Dragoons belonging to De
Clérambault’s division. General Ladmirault surveyed the field from the
heights of Bruville, and came to the conclusion that no more could be
accomplished by the French right wing. He had only two divisions, his
cavalry had been defeated, and he “discovered” between Tronville and
Vionville “an entire Corps d’Armée.” So he rested and bivouacked on
the hills about the Greyère farm. The forces of his next neighbour on
the left, Lebœuf, had been reduced to Aymard’s division, for Marshal
Bazaine had called away Nayral to support Montaudon near Rezonville;
indeed, at one moment he had abstracted one of Aymard’s brigades, but,
yielding to Lebœuf’s remonstrances, he sent it back.

                         _End of the Battle._

It was now past seven o’clock, and both sides were exhausted by
the tremendous strain which they had borne so long; yet the battle
continued until darkness had settled over the woods and villages and
fields. For Barnekow’s division and a Hessian brigade had entered the
woodlands and pressed forward on the Gorze road, creating new alarm
in the mind of Bazaine, who throughout the day was governed by his
belief that the Germans intended to turn his left and cut him off from
Metz. So that when Colonel von Rex pushed boldly up the ravine against
Lapasset and his flankers opened fire from the edge of the Bois des
Ognons, the French Commander drew still more troops to that flank.
Between Rezonville and the ridges near Gravelotte he had, by eventide,
placed the whole of the Guard, Frossard’s Corps, Lapasset’s brigade,
and one-half of Lebœuf’s Corps. Fearing the storming columns which ever
and anon surged outward from the woods towards the commanding heights
south of Rezonville, Bourbaki brought up fifty-four guns and arrayed
them in one long battery. The closing hours of the day witnessed a
stupendous artillery contest, which was carried on even when the
flashes of flame alone revealed the positions of the opposing pieces.
The thick smoke increased the obscurity, and yet within the gloom
bodies of German infantry, and even of horse, sallied from the woods or
vales and vainly strove to reach the coveted crests or storm in upon
Rezonville itself. At the very last moment a violent cannonade burst
forth on both sides, yet to this day neither knows why it arose, where
it began, or what it was to effect. At length the tired hosts were
quiet; the strife of twelve hours ended. The German line of outposts
that night ran from the Bois des Ognons along the Bois St. Arnould,
then to the east of Flavigny and Vionville through the Tronville
Copses; and after the moon rose upon the ghastly field the cavalry rode
forth and placed strong guards as far westward as Mars la Tour and
the Yron. The French slept on the ground they held, the heights south
of Rezonville, that village itself, and the ridges which overlook the
highway to Verdun as far as Bruville and Greyère. It had been a day of
awful carnage, for the French had lost, in killed and wounded, nearly
17,000, and the Germans 16,000 men.

It is impossible to state exactly the numbers present on the
field—probably, 125,000 French to 77,000 Germans. The latter brought
up two complete Corps, the 3rd and 10th, two divisions of cavalry,
the 5th and 6th—these sustained the shock and bore the chief loss—a
brigade of the 8th Corps, the 11th Regiment from the 9th, and four
Hessian regiments of that corps under Prince Louis, the husband of the
British Princess Alice. They also had, in action or reserve, 246 guns.
The French mustered the Imperial Guard, the 2nd Corps, three divisions
and one regiment of the 6th Corps, three divisions of the 3rd, and two
of the 4th Corps, five divisions of cavalry, and 390 guns; so that
on the 16th, they were, at all times, numerically superior in every
arm. When Alvensleben came into action a little after ten o’clock with
the 3rd Corps and two divisions of cavalry—perhaps 33,000 men—they
had in their front the 2nd and 6th Corps, the Guard, and the Reserve
Cavalry—not less than 72,000, the guns on the French side being always
superior in number. The 3rd Corps, less one division, was at ten
o’clock only three miles from the field; these and half the 4th Corps
arrived in the afternoon, adding more than 50,000 men to the total,
while the Germans could only bring up the 10th, and parts of the 8th
and 9th, fewer than 40,000, some of them marching into line late in the
evening. The French Marshal, who fought a defensive battle, did not use
his great strength during the forenoon, or in the afternoon when his
right wing had wheeled up to the front. The result was an “indecisive
action”—the phrase is used by the official German historian—and that
it was indecisive must be attributed, at least in part, to the fact
that Marshal Bazaine, nor he alone, stood in constant dread of an
overwhelming inroad of “Prussians” on his left, with intent to cut him
off from Metz and thrust him, unprovided with munitions of all kinds,
on to the Briey–Longuyon road. But it may be inferred from the mode in
which the battle was fought by the French commanders, from the first
shot to the last, that the Germans had obtained a moral ascendency
over the leaders and the led, and that such an ascendency had a great
influence upon the tactics, as well as the strategy, of Marshal Bazaine
and his subordinates in command. Nothing supports the correctness of
this inference more strongly than the fact that an Army of 120,000 men
considered a great success had been achieved when it had resisted the
onsets of less than two-thirds of its numbers, and had been driven from
its line of retreat!

                              CHAPTER IX.

                         PRESSED BACK ON METZ

Darkness had set in, and the last shot had been fired, when Marshal
Bazaine rode back to his head-quarters at Gravelotte. There he became
impressed with the scarcity—“penury”—of munitions and provisions; there
he acknowledged to the Emperor that the direct road to Verdun had been
closed, and that he might be obliged to retreat by the north; and there
he wrote the order which was to move his entire Army the next day
nearer to Metz. The troops began their retrograde march as early as
four o’clock, by which hour Prince Frederick Charles was up on the hill
above Flavigny, intently watching his antagonists. Rezonville was still
occupied by infantry, a cavalry division was drawn up between that
village and Vernéville until late in the forenoon, and the marches of
troops to and fro kept the cautious German Commanders, for some time,
in a state of uncertainty.

It has now to be shown how they had employed the 16th outside the area
of the conflict, where the several Corps stood in the evening, and by
what means the Great Staff, on the 17th, acquired the knowledge that
the “Army of the Rhine” had retired upon the line of hills immediately
to the westward of Metz.

The movement of troops comes first under notice. On the extreme left
the 4th Corps having crossed the Moselle at Marbache, had pushed
forward in a south-westerly direction, part of the Corps making a
dashing but fruitless attempt to intimidate the garrison of Toul,
so important because it barred the railway to Chalons, and at the
end of the day was still under orders to march upon the Meuse. The
Guard, preceded by its cavalry, advanced from Dieulouard to several
points half-way between the Moselle and the Meuse, the right being at
Bernecourt and the left about Beaumont. The 12th Corps, Saxons, crossed
the Moselle at Pont à Mousson, and had one division there and one about
Regnièville en Haye. The 2nd Corps, still approaching the Moselle by
forced marches, had attained villages east of the Seille. It will be
readily understood that, as the 4th and 2nd Corps were so far distant
from the centre of action west of Metz, they could hardly be moved up
in time to share in the impending struggle; and they, therefore, for
the present, may be omitted from the narrative. It was otherwise with
the remaining Corps, and it was the aim of the Great Staff to bring
them all up to the Verdun road.

From the very earliest moment, General von Moltke held the opinion
that the full consequences of the action on the 14th could only be
secured by vigorous operations on the left bank of the Moselle; and as
the reports came in from the front on the 16th, that sound judgment
was more than confirmed. The Royal head-quarters were transferred in
the forenoon to Pont à Mousson, whither King William repaired; and Von
Moltke, who had preceded the King, found information which led the
general to the conclusion that a new chapter in the campaign had been
opened. Accordingly, he desired to push up to the front the largest
possible number of troops, so that he might, if such a design were
feasible, have ample means wherewith to shoulder off the French to the
northward, and sever their communications with Chalons. At this stage,
the idea of shutting them up in Metz had not yet been conceived. The
7th, 8th and 9th were ordered to hasten forward on the road towards
Vionville, and some part of them, as we have seen, were engaged on the
16th. Extra bridges were erected on the Moselle, the roads were cleared
of all impediments, and the results rewarded the foresight, energy and
goodwill displayed by officers and men. The 12th Corps was eighteen,
and the Guard twenty-two miles from the battlefield, but so keen and
intelligent were their commanders, that, inferring from the information
they received what would be required of them, they stood prepared to
execute any order as soon as it arrived. The former body, indeed,
marched off northward in the night, and sent word of the fact to the
Guard, which led the commander to assemble the divisions on the instant
and stand ready to step forth. So that when the formal orders were
brought, the Guard started at five in the morning, when the Saxons were
already on the road. The 8th Corps, or rather its remaining division,
were on the way at dawn, preceded by the 9th, and followed by the 7th
from its cantonments on the left bank of the Seille. Thus the whole
available portions of the Second and First Armies were in motion, to
sustain the 3rd and 10th, if they were attacked on the 17th; to act, as
circumstances required, if the French abandoned the battlefield.

Prince Frederick Charles, who had slept at Gorze, took horse at dawn,
and reached his watch-tower on the hill south-west of Flavigny at
half-past four o’clock, early enough to distinguish by the increasing
light the French line of outposts between Bruville and Rezonville.
About six o’clock the King joined the Prince, and at the same time the
9th Corps took post near the right wing of the 3rd. What the staff had
now to determine was whether the French intended to retire or attack,
and if they retired whither they went. Patrols, busy on all sides, gave
in contradictory or rather discordant reports, which for some time
left it doubtful whether the retreat was not actually being carried
out by Conflans on the Briey road; but by degrees the head-quarters
arrived at the conclusion that the French would not attack, that they
had not withdrawn far, and that the task of grappling with them must
be deferred until the next day. Soon after noon, when General Metman,
acting as rear guard, quitted Rezonville, there were on or near the
field no fewer than seven German Corps and three divisions of cavalry;
so that had the French renewed the battle for the Verdun road, even
early in the morning, they would have found it a severe task to make
their way at least along the southern or Mars la Tour high road. About
eight in the morning General von Moltke had dictated an order on the
height near Flavigny, in obedience to which the 7th Corps marched by
Borny and Ars upon Gravelotte, following the Mance brook, and occupying
the woods on the right and left; while the 8th, already in part on
the field, ascended the watercourse and ravine which gives access
to Rezonville. The object of the double movement was to accelerate
the retreat of the French from these places. It was not accomplished
without some wood-fighting, but about half-past three General Metman
withdrew his flankers, and glided out of sight beyond the ridge near
Point du Jour. But the firing had alarmed Von Moltke, who, dreading
lest the fiery Steinmetz should bring on a general or even partial
engagement, sent him positive orders to stop the combat. The veteran,
however, pressed forward himself with Von Zastrow, Von Kameke and their
staff officers. Emerging from the woods into the open, they beheld
across the deep ravine the French camps on the opposite plateau, and
even discerned the works thrown up by the careful Frossard to cover
his guns and infantry. A mitrailleuse at once opened fire on the group
of horsemen, and drove them away, but not before they had seen enough
to prove, when combined with the cavalry reports from the north-west
flank, that the French Army was encamped on the heights to the west of
Metz, and had not attempted to withdraw by any of the still open roads
towards Mézières or Chalons. Therefore, the German armies halted, and
the Generals had a little leisure to frame a plan of operations for the

                          _Marshal Bazaine._

Human ingenuity has imputed various motives to the French Marshal, some
of them being discreditable to his loyalty, all based on a low estimate
of his character as a man, and capacity as a soldier. His own account
is that he did not persevere in trying to effect his retreat, either by
force or skill, partly because the Army was not well supplied with food
and munitions, and partly, as is apparent from his evidence and books,
because he had formed a military theory which he proposed to work out
near Metz to the disadvantage of the enemy. He held that he had a
strong post on the flank of the German communications, and that, if he
could make his adversaries waste their troops in repeated attacks upon
“inexpugnable” positions, he might be able to resume the offensive when
the Army at Chalons should take the field. Secretly, we suspect, he had
become imbued with a belief or apprehension that what the French call
the _moral_ of the Army had been seriously impaired; that their staying
power in action was not what it should have been, and that they could
not be trusted to perform so delicate an operation as a long flank
march within reach of a foe exalted by victory, aided by a powerful
and audacious cavalry, and an infantry capable of marching twenty miles
a day, and enjoying the advantage of greatly superior numbers. As
usual, the motives of Bazaine were “mixed,” but there does not seem any
good reason to believe that he was selfishly disloyal to the Emperor,
faithless to France, or insensible to the charms of “glory.” His chief
defect was that he did not possess sufficient military competence to
command a large Army—a defect he shared with his comrades of high
rank; and his misfortune was that he succeeded to an inheritance of
accumulated error entailing severe penalties, from the infliction of
which only a rare genius, like that of the First Napoleon, could have
saved himself and his Army.

Active warfare had now continued for a fortnight, and at sundown on the
17th of August the “Army of the Rhine” found itself obliged to form
front facing, not Berlin, but Paris; while the formidable Armies of
King William, with their backs to the French capital, turned their eyes
towards the Rhine.

                   _The Battlefield of Gravelotte._

Whatever may have been his motives, Marshal Bazaine directed his Army
to retire upon a position of exceptional strength on the heights to the
westward of Metz, which look towards the wooded ravine of the Mance
brook throughout its course, and beyond its source over the undulating
plain in the direction of the river Orne. This ridge of upland abuts on
the Moselle near Ars, is covered at its broad southern end by the Bois
de Vaux, is intersected by the great highway from Metz to Verdun, which
is carried along a depression where the wood terminates, and over the
shoulder above Gravelotte. North of the road the high ground, with a
westerly bias, runs as far as Amanvillers, and thus trending slightly
eastward, ascends to St. Privat la Montagne and Roncourt, and back to
the Moselle bottom lands below Metz. The left of the position, opposite
the Bois de Vaux, is curved outwards, its shape being indicated by
the high road, which, after bending round and creeping up the hill
as far as Point du Jour, turns abruptly to the west, and crosses the
Mance upon a causeway east of Gravelotte. This bulwark, occupied
by Frossard’s Corps, from near Point du Jour to St. Ruffine in the
lowlands, was made more formidable by shelter-trenches, field works,
and gunpits. The two houses at Point du Jour were pierced for musketry,
and the immense quarries in the hill-side, at the elbow of the ridge
facing the Mance, were filled with troops. The only mode of reaching
the front was either up the narrow causeway by St. Hubert, or across
the deep ravine. Behind this strong front the ground sloped inwards,
so that the troops and reserves could be, and were, screened from view
as well as from fire. In the bottom stood the village of Rozérieulles;
and above, the eminences on which the engineers had planted the forts
of St. Quentin and Plappeville. The hollow through which the highway
ran was bordered with vineyards, and near to Metz villages and houses
clustered thickly astride of the road. On the right of Frossard were
the four divisions forming the Corps of Lebœuf, extending as far as
the farm of La Folie, opposite Vernéville. Here the ground was high
and open, yet also sloping to the rear as well as the front, and its
chief strength lay in the strongly-built farmsteads of St. Hubert,
seated on the roadside just above Gravelotte, in those of Moscow and
Leipzig, standing on the bare hill-side; and in the Bois de Genivaux,
a thick wood, which filled the upper part of the Mance ravine. Beyond
the 3rd Corps lay the 4th, under De Ladmirault, having its left in
the farm and château of Montigny le Grange, and its right at, and a
little north of, Amanvillers, a considerable village, planted in a
depression at a point where one of the roads from Metz quits the deep
defile of Chatel St. Germain, and bends suddenly westward to join,
at Habonville, the road to Briey. The track of the railway, then
unfinished, ascends this wooded gully, and winds on to the open ground
at Amanvillers. The country in front of the ridge, from that place to
Roncourt, is an extensive open descent, which has been compared to
the glacis of a fortress, at the foot of which stand the villages of
Habonville, St. Ail, and St. Marie aux Chênes. On the southern edge of
this succession of bare fields is the Bois de la Cusse, which was not,
strictly speaking, a continuous wood, but a sort of common irregularly
strewed with copses; and on the north were the valley of the Orne and
the woods bordering its meandering course. The 6th Corps, Canrobert’s,
occupied and guarded the right flank, having an outpost in St. Marie,
and detachments in the villages beyond Roncourt; but placing its main
reliance on St. Privat, which, looked at from the west, stood on the
sky line, and, being nearly surrounded by garden walls, had the aspect
of a little fortress. The Imperial Guard, considered as a reserve, was
drawn up in front of the fort of Plappeville, on the east side of the
deep ravine of St. Germain. The fort of St. Quentin looked well over,
and protected the whole of the French left, and served especially as a
support to Lapasset’s Brigade at St. Ruffine, which faced south. Here
the edge of the position touched the suburbs of Metz, and was within
cannon-shot of the right bank of the Moselle, opposite Jussy.

It will be seen that the battlefield may be divided into two portions,
differing from each other in their external aspects. The bold curved
ridge held by Frossard rose between two and three hundred feet above
the bed of the Mance, having in rear ground still higher, and was
backed by the mass upon which stands Fort St. Quentin. It was, indeed,
a natural redoubt open to the rear, covered along its front by the
steep sides of a deep ravine, and accessible only by the viaduct built
over the brook, a solid embankment, except where a vaulted opening
allowed the stream to pass. On the French side of the bridge was the
strong farmstead of St. Hubert, well walled towards the assailant; and
further north the thick woods of Genivaux, which ran near to and beyond
the farm of Leipzig; so that while a deep gully protected Frossard,
Lebœuf had defensive outposts in the wood, which he intrenched in a
series of recessed field works, and in the stout farm buildings, which
stormers could only reach by passing up gentle acclivities, every
yard whereof could be swept by fire. The right half of the line was
different in every respect from the left—for there was no wood, and the
whole front, from Amanvillers to Roncourt was, for practical purposes,
though not so steep, as free from obstacles as the slope of the South
Downs. The left and centre were supplied with artificial defences, but
the right, which did not rest on any natural support, and might be
turned, was not fortified by field works, because Marshal Canrobert’s
intrenching tools had been, perforce, left behind at Chalons. The
great defects of this “inexpugnable” position were that it had bad
lateral communications, no good lines of retreat, and a weak right
flank. Marshal Bazaine, who misjudged the formidable strength of his
left wing, and gave his opponent the credit of contemplating an attack
on that side, had taken post in Fort Plappeville, where he placed the
reserves, and whence he could not see the right, which it does not
appear that he had ever examined. The penalty for so grave an error was
the loss of the battle.

                          _The German Plans._

Before starting from the hill over Flavigny for Pont à Mousson on
the afternoon of the 17th, General von Moltke had issued an order to
Prince Frederick Charles and Von Steinmetz, indicating the operations
which were to begin the next morning. Their purport was that while
the 7th Corps stood fast, and the 8th leant towards the right of the
Second Army, the Corps composing it should move forward, left in front,
facing north. It was a general direction, intended to place the troops
in such an array as would enable them to strike and stop the French,
if they still sought to reach Chalons by the northern roads, or by a
right wheel bring the whole German force to bear upon the enemy if he
were found in position before Metz. By six o’clock on the morning of
the 18th, King William and his staff were once more on the height near
Flavigny, soon after which time the whole Army was in movement, and a
sputter of musketry had begun on the extreme right between Frossard’s
foreposts and those of the 7th Corps in the woods. The 8th had come
up near to Rezonville; the 9th was moving between that village and
St. Marcel; the Guard was passing Mars la Tour; and the 12th was on
the road to Jarny. Behind, in second line, were the 10th and 3rd, the
5th and 6th divisions of cavalry being attached to the latter Corps
respectively; while the 2nd Corps, which had bivouacked at Pont à
Mousson, had started on another forced march, in order, should there
be a battle, to enter the field before dark. The morning wore away,
and, except on the right where his left was visible and his skirmishers
active, no evidence of the enemy’s presence could be found. The Saxon
cavalry division, scouting northward and westward, lighted only on
stragglers and patrols; the horsemen and staff officers out in front
of the other Corps watching as well as they could the movements of
the French, sent in divergent statements, leaving it doubtful where
their main body was, and what it was doing or intended to do. Great
uncertainty, in short, prevailed until after ten o’clock, and even
then General von Moltke and the staff were under the impression that
the French right was near Montigny la Grange; but, believing that the
adversary would fight, an order went forth at 10.30 a.m., which finally
brought the German Armies into line facing eastward. Meantime Prince
Frederick Charles had, by degrees, also arrived at the conclusion that
the French would accept battle, and, at half-past ten, he likewise
instructed General von Manstein to move towards La Folie and begin an
attack with his artillery, provided the enemy’s right was not beyond
Amanvillers. Immediately afterwards, while Von Moltke still believed
that the flank he wished to turn was at the last-named village, the
Prince acquired certain information, from a Hessian cavalry patrol,
that the French right rested on St. Privat la Montagne. By such slow
degrees was the long-sought flank discovered. Orders were then given
directing the 12th and the Guard to wheel to the right and move on
St. Marie aux Chênes and Habonville; but before they could come into
line, Manstein’s guns were heard, and Von Moltke became apprehensive
lest the exciting sounds of conflict would carry away the impetuous
Steinmetz, lest the First Army, always so eager for battle, might
strike in prematurely and injure a combination which depended so much
upon a simultaneous onset. Accordingly, the rein upon that General
was tightened, and he was told that he might use artillery, yet not
do more with his infantry than attract the notice of the enemy and
keep his attention on the strain. But so thoroughly were the chiefs
of the German Corps imbued with the same principles of conduct, that
the Prince Royal of Saxony and Prince Augustus of Würtemberg had
already, in anticipation, prepared to play the part which was to be
assigned them. Having learned, from their own scouting parties, where
the French right stood, and having heard the guns at Vernéville, they
had both wheeled their divisions to the eastward, and pushed out their
advance Guards. Thus they were ready to march at the moment when the
order arrived; in fact, the order was in course of execution before it
reached the officers to whom it had been addressed. Meantime, acting
on the first instructions from the Prince, drawn up when he believed
the right rested on Amanvillers, General von Manstein, a little before
noon, had begun

                      _The Battle of Gravelotte._

At this moment, it should be noted, the French camps on the right
centre and right did not know that an enemy was within a long mile
of their bivouacs. The usual patrols had been sent out and had
returned—even scouts selected by the local officials for their
knowledge of the country—to report that they had not seen anybody.
Marshal Canrobert, in his evidence on the Bazaine court-martial,
expressly testifies to the fact, and adds that the first intimation
he received came from the boom of hostile guns on his left front. The
troops of Ladmirault’s Corps, encamped on both sides of Amanvillers,
were peacefully engaged in cooking their noontide meal, when General
von Manstein, who seems to have been endowed with some of the
impetuosity of his namesake, who figured in the wars of Frederick II.,
riding ahead of his corps, caught sight of the quiescent camp. The
temptation could not be withstood. From the hills near Vernéville he
could not see the troops at St. Privat, but he had been informed by
the Hessian Cavalry that the French were there. He had been formally
enjoined to attack if the enemy’s right was near La Folie; it was
much to the north of that farm; yet Manstein, unable to neglect the
opportunity of startling a negligent camp by an outburst of fire, sent
the solitary battery which had accompanied him into instant action
from a rising ground east of Vernéville. The first shot was fired at
a quarter to twelve, and its successors roused the French line from
St. Privat to the centre, for Frossard and Lebœuf seemed to have
been on the alert. General von Blumenthal, with the leading infantry
battalions, was at that time moving on the farm of Chantrenne, and
he was stopped by the lively musketry salute which greeted his men.
Manstein, seeing that his guns were too distant from their living
targets, now ordered the battery forward, and it was soon joined,
first by the divisional then by the corps artillery; the whole finally
forming a long line of fifty-four pieces, each battery having, as it
dashed up, wheeled to the right and opened fire. The movement was a
grave error, for the long rounded hill on which the batteries stood
faced south-east, offered no shelter except on its low right shoulder,
and the guns were exposed to a fire from the front, the flank, and
even from the left rear. Two batteries were slewed round to the left,
but that did not remedy the original mistake. There were no infantry
at hand to keep down the fire of the French foot, which, lurking in
the hollows, sent a hail of bullets among the guns. Committed to this
false position, the superb German artillerymen did their utmost to make
it good; but no heroism could avail against its cruel disadvantages.
General Blumenthal, indeed, had carried the Chantrenne farm, but the
enemy, at the first shot, had thrown a garrison into another homestead
named Champenois, whence the chassepots smote the front of the
batteries. The Hessians, also, had developed a powerful attack through
the Bois de la Cusse towards the railway embankment and Amanvillers,
thus taking off some of the severe pressure from the devoted gunners.
But the French infantry crept nigher and nigher; under the rush of
shells, shrapnel, and bullets, officers, men, and horses fell fast and
faster. By concentrating their aim the Germans crushed one or silenced
another battery; by using shell they sometimes scattered oncoming
infantry; still the penalty of haste and a wrong direction had to be
paid. The left battery, disabled, was caught in the tempest and borne
down by a rush of French foot. Two pieces were dragged away by hardy
men and wounded horses; two were left on the field; and two were
captured. Yet this astonishing artillery, though horribly shattered,
continued to hold its ground. It was saved, at a later moment, from a
persevering attack on its vulnerable flank by the steady onset of an
infantry battalion, which lost nearly half its strength in succouring
the guns. Then, for the position was really untenable, all the
batteries, except three on the right, where there was a little shelter,
at length drew reluctantly, in succession, out of the shambles and went
rearward to refit. It was half-past two; they had been more than two
hours in the jaws of death, and had lost no fewer than 210 officers and
men and 370 horses. So audaciously, if sometimes unwisely, was this
grand arm employed in battle that no one need be astonished to learn
how Canrobert, who loved a picturesque phrase, called his dreaded and
admired opponents, “_tirailleurs d’artillerie_.”

               _Prince Frederick Charles at the Front._

Manstein, who was to have attacked the French right, had dashed
somewhat impetuously against the right centre, and for some two hours
his Corps sustained the brunt of the engagement, for the Guards and the
Saxons were still on the march, the first heading for Vernéville and
Habonville, the second on St. Marie aux Chênes, into which Canrobert
had hurried three battalions. North of the artillery, whose bloody
adventure has been described, the Hessian division, under Prince
Louis, posted astride of the railway embankment, which, running from
Amanvillers to Habonville, cut the line of troops at right angles, held
the copses of the Bois de la Cusse, and, supported by thirty guns,
formed the backbone of the German attack in that exposed quarter.
Further south, the other half of the 9th Corps, the 18th Division, had
its reserves near Vernéville, with troops established in Chantrenne
and L’Envie; but they could make no way, because the French were
solidly planted in Champenois, in the Bois de Genivaux, in a spinney
projecting to the westward of La Folie, in that farm and on the higher
ground above. About half-past two the contest in the centre had become
defensive on the part of the 9th Corps, and the energies of the leaders
and the troops alike were taxed to retain the ground already occupied
and extricate the artillery. Prince Frederick Charles, on learning just
before noon, from the cavalry reports, where the French right actually
stood, became anxious when he heard at St. Marcel the uproar of a hot
artillery engagement, and he rode off at once towards the sound and
smoke which rose in clouds above the woods. On reaching Habonville he
was able to survey the conflict, and also discern, in outline, the
enemy’s position at St. Privat. The great head-quarters were still
imperfectly informed, yet they wished to restrain precipitate action
and prevent a home-thrusting central attack until strong bodies could
be launched against the French right. The Prince, however, saw that
the combat could not be broken off, and he set himself to make all
secure by placing a brigade of the Guard, as a reserve, to assist the
9th Corps, which was all that Manstein requested, and by ordering up
four batteries from the 3rd Corps, the infantry masses of which were
not far from Vernéville. Prince Augustus of Würtemberg had preceded the
Guard Corps, and as soon as General Pape, commanding the 1st infantry
division, arrived with the advanced guard it was arranged that his four
batteries should go into action to the south-west of Habonville, that
is on the left of the much-tried Hessians, and cover the march of the
Guard towards St. Marie. The spot first selected for the guns was found
defective, and the batteries, at a gallop, took up new ground further
to the left, to the south-west of St. Ail. Thereupon, that village was
occupied by the Guard; Prince Augustus sent for the corps artillery,
and soon nine batteries were arrayed between the two villages, on a
diagonal line pointing to the north-west, that is, so disposed as to
bring to bear a heavy fire on St. Privat, a succour which gave further
relief to the gunners of the 9th Corps. For not only Canrobert’s
cannon, but his infantry, lurking in the shallow valleys along the
front, now directed their shells and bullets upon the Guard batteries.
Although the French did not attempt any heavy stroke, they were
active and enterprising, and kept their swarms of skirmishers within
a thousand yards of the guns, but, as the official historian remarks,
over and over again, beyond the range of the needle-gun. Before three
o’clock the Guard Corps was up, and the 12th, or rather half of it, had
approached near St. Marie. Such was the condition of the battle on that
side; and it is now necessary to describe the daring operations of the
First Army, on the German right wing.

                 _Steinmetz Attacks the French Left._

It will be remembered that the 7th and 8th Corps, commanded by Von
Steinmetz, upon whom it was necessary to keep a tight hand, had been
brought up to the south and west of Gravelotte, the left of the 8th
touching Manstein’s right. The 7th provided the outposts which lined
the fringe and salient of the Bois de Vaux, and these troops were
engaged in an intermittent and bickering contest with the French
infantry thrown out upon that flank. The 1st Division of Cavalry, from
the right bank, crossing the Moselle at Borny, rode up about noon
as a support, and General von Fransecky, preceding the 2nd Corps,
assured the King, whom he found near Flavigny, that one division would
arrive in time to form a reserve for the First Army. Von Steinmetz,
on a height near Gravelotte, nervously observed the French, sent in
repeated information that they were moving off, and evidently desired
to adopt the tactics which he had applied on two previous occasions.
He was ordered to be still, and when the guns spoke at Vernéville,
Von Moltke, knowing their effect upon the veteran warrior, intimated
afresh that he must stand expectant yet awhile. Permission was given,
as already mentioned, to use his guns; but when the despatch was handed
to Steinmetz he had already opened fire with the batteries of the 7th
Corps, arrayed to the south, and of the 8th to the north of Gravelotte;
and the infantry had been moved eastward to the edge of the region
just clear of the French fire. The troops in the Bois de Vaux were
reinforced, the mill of the Mance and the gully itself were occupied,
and an ample force was posted above the ravine to protect the line of

The expectant attitude, always distasteful to Von Steinmetz, was not,
and in the nature of things could not be long maintained by the First
Army. The generals on the spot knew more accurately what had occurred
in the centre than the Great Staff when the order to look on was
written. General von Goeben, knowing how deeply Manstein had committed
the 9th Corps, felt bound to attack in order that he might detain and
provide employment for the French left. From a point near Gravelotte
he could see the masses of troops held in reserve by Lebœuf and
Frossard, and, with the ready assent of his immediate chief he pushed
forth columns from both his divisions. On the south of the high road
the soldiers disappeared in the deep gully of the Mance, their path
marked by puffs of smoke as they drove back the French skirmishers, and
reappeared climbing the opposite slope leading to the huge quarries
below Point du Jour; but here, struck and repelled by the defenders,
they vanished again into the depths, where they held on to the gravel
pits in the bottom. Nearer the high road, one battalion wedged itself
in to the quarries close to St. Hubert; while beyond the highway, the
Germans dashed through the wood, established themselves on its eastern
border above and about the farmstead, and stormed the stone parapets
set up by the French foreposts at the confluence of the two streamlets
which form the Mance. Farther they could not go, because Lebœuf’s men
stiffly held the eastern patch of woodland, while the open ground
towards the Moscow farm was swept by musketry fire from the deep banks
in the cross-roads, from the shelter trenches above, and from the
loopholed buildings of the farm. But the attack on the Bois de Genivaux
aided the men of the 9th Corps, who, from Chantrenne, had entered its
northern border, and compelled the defenders of the lines in front of
Moscow to turn upon the new assailants. Then the companies which had
gathered about St. Hubert became engaged in a destructive contest, for
the walls were high and well garnished, and the northern point of
attack was more or less commanded by the higher ground towards Moscow.
On the south front, however, there proved to be more chances of success.

Relying, perhaps, on Frossard’s infantry and guns, the discharges from
which commanded the high road, the garrison had forgotten to barricade
the gates, doors, and windows; and when the place had been cannonaded
by the southern line of guns, the assailants, who had suffered great
loss with unflinching hardihood, came on with an irresistible rush,
and carried the farm by storm. The feat was accomplished about three
o’clock; and the work done gave a solid support to the German right
wing. At this time, the German guns, so well fought, having taken
more forward positions, had mastered the French artillery, which sank
into comparative silence. There were seventy-eight pieces in action
on the south of the high road, and fifty-four on the north, and their
superiority is admitted and recorded by Frossard himself, who saw his
batteries idle or withdrawn, his reserves smitten, and its defenders
literally burnt out of the farm buildings at Point du Jour. Yet the
French left was not shaken, it was hardly touched, by a vehement attack
which had given the Germans a better defensive position, indeed, but
still one only on the verge of Frossard’s stronghold, and affording no
facilities for a rush against the fortified lines occupied by the 3rd
French Corps, in the thickets of Genivaux and on the brow of the bare

The capture of St. Hubert was nearly coincident with that stage in the
heady fight before Vernéville which saw the Hessians embattled on the
Bois de la Cusse, the exposed artillery of the 9th Corps in retreat
from a false position, and the opportune appearance of the Guard about
Habonville and of the Saxons to the north-west of St. Marie. In front
of their main line the French held the latter village, were well
forward in the hollows west of Amanvillers, stood fast in the farms of
La Folie, Leipsic, Moscow, Champenois, and that portion of the Bois
de Genivaux which covered the eastern arm of the Mance. The fight had
raged for more than three hours, and they had only lost possession of
the L’Envie and Chantrenne, places distant from their front, and St.
Hubert, which, no doubt, was a dangerous-looking salient within a few
hundred yards of the well-defended ridge where the high road turned at
right angles towards the blazing farm of Point du Jour. From end to
end, therefore, and it was between seven and eight miles in length,
measured by an air-line, the whole of Bazaine’s formidable position was
intact. The Imperial Guard, the effective reserve, still stood on the
heights east of Chatel St. Germain, behind the left, and six miles from
the right where the battle was to be decided.

                 _Operations by the German Left Wing._

The two Corps, forming the left wing of the German Army, had been
guided far more by the reports brought in by daring cavalry scouts,
than by the orders received either from Prince Frederick Charles or Von
Moltke, because these latter were necessarily less well-informed than
the Corps commanders who were the first to receive the information.
Yet the latter, of course, while taking their own line conformed to
the governing idea, which was that the French right flank, wherever it
was, should be turned. Moving eastward from Jarny, with the 12th Corps
the Crown Prince of Saxony learned before two o’clock, that Roncourt
was the extreme northern limit of Canrobert’s Corps, and he, therefore,
varied a head-quarter’s order to march upon St. Marie, by directing
one division, the 23rd, under Prince George, to march down the right
bank of the Orne, through Auboué, and turn to the right upon Roncourt.
One brigade of the 24th Division he directed on St. Marie, keeping the
other back as a support. About the same time the whole of the Guard,
except one brigade detached to back up the 9th Corps, had formed up
near Habonville, and their batteries, as we have seen, had taken up
a position which enabled them to smite St. Privat. When, therefore,
General Pape had moved up the Guards by the ravine west of St. Marie
he found the Saxons ready to co-operate with him in driving out the
French battalions occupying the pretty village which has the air of a
small rural town. It sits at the foot of the long bare incline leading
down from St. Privat, traversed by a straight road bordered, as usual,
by tall scraggy trees; and nestling amid gardens and walled inclosures
shines out a cheerful white spot in the diversified landscape. From
this point, St. Privat looms dark and large on the hill-top, larger and
darker looking than it really is. To the southward of that village,
beyond a dip, down and up which the cottages creep, stands the
farmstead of Jerusalem, and further south the ground rolls away towards
Amanvillers. More than a mile of open country separates St. Privat
from St. Marie, affording no lurking places to either side, except
such as can be found in the gentle swelling and falling of the fields;
indeed, to the casual observer the smoothness of the surface seems
broken only by the poplars on the highway. West of St. Marie there is
a shallow ravine, and beyond it copses, and south, as we know towards
Vernéville, more copses, ruddy brown farmsteads, and white villages.
At this moment the battle-smoke puffed out, curled, rose in fantastic
clouds, or rolled along the ground, upon the hill-sides and above
the thickets and barns; about St. Marie, however, the air as yet was
untainted by the sulphurous mists of combat so rank a mile away, but
the garrison stood painfully expectant of the coming fray. For though
the Guards were hidden the Saxon brigade to the north-west was visible,
and the skirmishers driven from St. Ail, told how the “Prussians” were
mustering for the onset.

Suddenly lines of skirmishers appear, gun after gun drives up, the
Saxon artillery reinforcing the pieces which the Guard can spare,
until three distinct lines of batteries are formed and open on the
village. The German Generals, who judged the place to be stronger and
more strongly garrisoned than it was, had brought to bear overwhelming
forces—probably also to save time; so that, after enduring a hot
cannonade from seventy-eight guns, the French battalions, who had
borne the bombardment and had spent abundance of ammunition in return,
did not await the shock of the storming columns sent against them,
but fled by the eastern outlet to their main body. The Guard and the
Saxons, who had come on with ringing hurrahs, swept into the place
on all sides; some prisoners were taken, but the greater mass of the
defenders and the French battery which had kept up a flank fire on the
approach to the south face of the village, got safely up the hill.
When they were inside St. Marie the assailants were able to see that
“the adversary had done nothing to increase, by artificial means, the
defensive value of a post, naturally strong; and had even neglected to
barricade the roads and paths by which it is entered.” The truth is
that the occupation of St. Marie by the French was an after thought,
and that although defensible in itself the place was far too remote
from the main French line of battle to be supported; and the garrison,
which no doubt, in a different temper, might have died fighting in the
streets and houses, yielded when they felt the hail of shells and saw
the impending storm-cloud of infantry ready to burst upon them. The
defenders hastened towards Roncourt and St. Privat, losing men from
the fire of their exulting enemies, who followed on the eastern side
until stopped by the chassepot and the guns on the hills. Thus a point
of support was secured in that quarter, about half-past three, but no
advance could be made until the artillery had prepared the way, and the
turning column had made further progress in its march.

Nevertheless, the Saxon troops on the north of St. Marie and some who
had been engaged in its capture, carried away by their ardour and
the sight of a retreating foe, pursued so far and were so promptly
reinforced that a fierce infantry fight ensued. For a French brigade,
led by General Péchot, dashed out of their lines, struck roughly on the
front and turned the left flank of the Saxons who, being obstinate,
held the slightly uneven meadow lands with great difficulty and much
loss. Although they were aided by their own batteries and those of the
Guard which had been moved forward on the front between St. Ail and
Habonville, and whose fire smote diagonally the French columns rushing
out of Roncourt and St. Privat, yet the Saxons were overmatched; and,
after much labour, as they were nearly all spread out in skirmishing
order, General Nehrdorff, who comprehended the situation, and saw
the waste of effort, gradually drew them back to the original line.
The French counter attack, swift and sharp, was well sustained, and
the bold Saxons paid a heavy price for their temerity. While this
combat was in progress, the Crown Prince of Saxony from a height in
front of Auboué, gazing intently towards Roncourt, made an important
discovery—he saw troops in movement to the north of that village, and,
in fact, Canrobert’s outposts extended nearly to the Orne. Thus, after
a long search, yet not before four o’clock, the extreme right of the
French Army was at length found, and thereupon the turning column of
horse, foot, and guns, one-half Prince George’s division, was ordered
to take a still wider sweep northward ere it wheeled in upon the
French rear. As it marched stealthily on its way, the Saxon artillery
developed a long line of batteries pointing towards Roncourt, protected
by Craushaar’s brigade, which made a lodgment in the western block of
a deep wooded ravine on the left of the guns, and stood ready to dash
forward when their comrades emerged from the villages and copses behind
the French right. In the centre the troops of the 9th Corps had stormed
and occupied the farm of Champenois, had tried again, without success,
to win the eastern tracts of the Bois de Genivaux, and, supported by
106 guns, had maintained a sanguinary contest with Lebœuf’s steady
brigades, ensconced over against them in the farms, thickets, and
hollow ways. About five o’clock the fury of the battle diminished for a
moment, in the centre, on the left, and even on the right, where, down
to that hour, it had raged with a spirit and vigour which must now be

               _General Frossard Repels a fresh Attack._

The enormous defensive strength of the position held by General
Frossard’s Corps does not seem to have been thoroughly understood by
anyone except that accomplished engineer. Marshal Bazaine did not
perceive its value, for he was perpetually afraid that the Germans
would break in upon it, either from the Bois de Vaux or by the high
road, and his apprehensions or prejudices were confirmed when a column
of troops was seen to be ascending the river-road from Ars towards
Jussy, near St. Ruffine. General von Steinmetz, on the other hand,
who had peered out from every available height between the Bois des
Ognons and Gravelotte, although each attack which he had directed had
been repelled, thought he discerned symptoms of weakness and even of
retreat. The truth is that Frossard’s men were well hidden, not less
by the natural features of the ground than by the trenches which he
had dug and the breastworks which he had thrown up. If his batteries
were silent or withdrawn it was because, although overpowered in the
gun fight, they were yet still able to arrest the onsets of infantry;
and if the French fantassins were invisible, it was because they were
lying down or arrayed on the reverse of the ridge. The hot-tempered
General of the First Army, however, surmised, after the capture of St.
Hubert, that troops had been detached to aid the distant right, or that
a moment had come when, if pressed home by an attack of all arms, Point
du Jour could be carried and the French driven headlong into Metz.
Under the influence of this delusion he rode up to General von Goeben,
who was watching the battle near Gravelotte. Captain Seton, an Indian
officer who was present, noticed the violent gestures and rapid talk
of Steinmetz because they offered so strong a contrast to the steady
coolness of the younger warrior. At that moment he was expounding
opinions and issuing orders which brought on one of the most brilliant
and destructive episodes in the battle. Goeben had already sent forward
Gneisenau’s brigade, partly on and partly north of the road, but they
were needed to feed the combat, support the weakened and scattered
companies, and secure St. Hubert.

What Steinmetz now designed was a home-thrust on the French position;
and, accordingly, he ordered several batteries of the 7th Corps and
Von Hartmann’s cavalry division to cross the Gravelotte defile and
plant themselves on the gentle acclivities to the south of the road.
Now the highway runs first through a cutting, is then carried on an
embankment, and only near St. Hubert are the gentle southern slopes
above the gully accessible to horses and guns. But this narrow track
swarmed with troops, into the midst of which came the cavalry and
artillery. The infantry gave way and four batteries arrived on the
opposite side of the defile, followed by the 9th Uhlans. But so
deadly was the storm of shot which burst from the French position—for
cannon, mitrailleuse, and chassepot went instantly to work—that two of
the batteries were at once driven into the ravine below. The Uhlans
actually rode out into the open, took up a position, and remained
until it was plain to all that the lives of men and horses were being
uselessly sacrificed. The other regiments, “well peppered,” had already
gone “threes about” before clearing the defile, and the Uhlans, who
were dropping fast, rode back, as well as they could, to Gravelotte
or the sheltering woods. A more extravagant movement has rarely been
attempted in war, or one less justified by the evident facts of the
situation as well as by the deadly results. Yet two batteries actually
remained, one, under Captain Hasse, in the open, about seven hundred
yards from the French lines of musketry; the other, commanded by
Captain Gnügge, covered in front by the low wall of the St. Hubert
garden, but lending a flank to the adversary at the top of the road.
Captain Hasse and his gunners were stubborn men; they fought their
battery for two hours, in fact, until nearly all the men and horses
were down. Even then Hasse would not retire, and one of his superiors
was obliged to hurry up fresh teams and forcibly drag the guns away.
But the battery under the wall held on, and did good service by firing
on the French about the Moscow farm.

The failure of these mistaken attacks and the retreat of guns and
horsemen seems to have shaken the constant German infantry, for they
gave ground everywhere but at St. Hubert, and the French came on with
such vigour that General Steinmetz himself and his staff were under
a heavy fire. Fortunately three fresh battalions plunged into the
combat; but they could not do more than sustain it; for every attempt
made to approach the French, either towards the Moscow farm or Point
du Jour, met with a speedy repulse. Indeed, down to five o’clock,
the point of time at which we have arrived, along the whole line, no
progress whatever had been made by the German right wing, which held
on to St. Hubert, the ravine of the Mance, and the western portion of
the Bois de Genivaux, but could not show a rifle or bayonet beyond in
any direction. It was only the powerful German artillery which still
remained the superb masters of the field, so far as their action was

It was at this time that King William and his staff, which included
Prince Bismarck, rode up to the high ground above Malmaison, where he
established his head-quarters in the field, and whence, until nearly
dark, he watched the battle. Over against him, concerned respecting his
left, and ignorant of the state of the battle on his right, was Marshal
Bazaine, in the fort of Plappeville, whither he had returned from St.
Quentin, which commanded a wide view to the south and south-west.
He says that he gave General Bourbaki discretion to use the Guard
wherever it might be wanted. But that officer knew little more than
the Commander-in-Chief. An hour or two earlier, taking with him the
Grenadier Division of the Guard, he had started towards the north,
following a hilly road east of the St. Germain ravine. He had seen the
immense mountain of white smoke which towered up in the north-west, but
the current of air, hardly a wind, apparently blew from the south-east,
since at Plappeville he could not hear the roar of the guns, and the
view was so obstructed that he could not obtain even a glimpse of the
country about St. Privat. He had to leave behind him the Voltigeurs and
Chasseurs of the Guard, who were partly in reserve and partly posted to
support Lebœuf, who called up one regiment from Brincourt’s brigade.
Bazaine had also sent some guns to support Lapasset in his contest with
the troops which Von Golz had marched up from Ars to the woodlands and
vineyards opposite St. Ruffine. The French at this stage were still in
good spirits. If Lebœuf was a little anxious behind his farmsteads, his
woods, and skilfully-disposed re-entering echelons of shelter trenches;
Frossard, who soon after relieved his front ranks from the reserve,
was content; and De Ladmirault, as was usual with him, believed that
he might be almost considered victorious, and only required a few
battalions of the Guard to insure his success. The ammunition on both
sides was running out here and there; indeed, Canrobert declares that
he was compelled to borrow from De Ladmirault; still there was enough
to last out the day. Over the seven or eight miles of flame and smoke
and tumult, for a brief interval, came what may be called a lull
compared with the deafening tempest of sounds which smote on the ear
when the rival combatants raged most fiercely.

                  _The last Fights near St. Hubert._

For some time longer the German right wing did little more than defend
its somewhat irregular line of front. The 2nd Corps, which had been
marching every day since it quitted the Saar, had attained Rezonville,
and King William placed it under the orders of Von Steinmetz. As the
minutes flew by, the head-quarter staff on the hill near Malmaison were
impressed by a fact and an appearance—the increase of the vivacity
and volume of fire towards the north—where the Guard had begun its
onset on St. Privat—and the symptoms of wavering which seemed, and
only seemed, to be visible on the French left. The King, therefore,
sanctioned a fresh and formidable advance upon Frossard’s brigades by
all the troops which Von Steinmetz could spare for the enterprise.
But the main object of Von Moltke, we infer, was to prevent, by
striking hard, the despatch of any assistance to Canrobert, and thus
assist, by a resolute advance, upon one wing, the decisive movement
then approaching its critical stage on the other. The 2nd Corps was,
therefore, brought up to Gravelotte, and all the available troops
of the 7th and 8th were held in readiness to assail, once more, the
enemies beyond the Mance.

But the French, who, though wearied, were still undaunted, anticipating
their foes, became the assailants. Their silent guns spoke out in
thunder, the heights were shrouded in a canopy of smoke, and the bolts
hurled from the batteries fell like hail on the woods, and sent such
an iron shower as far forward as the hill-top where the King and his
great men stood, that Von Roon prevailed on the King to ride further
back. The lively French skirmishers dashed forth into the open, strove
hard to reach St. Hubert, drove the German foreposts headlong down
the steeps into the Mance gully, filled the high road with a rushing,
clamorous crowd of fugitives, and even caused terror and commotion in
the rear of Gravelotte, so vehement and unexpected was the stroke.
Fortunately for the Germans, the principal bodies of troops in St.
Hubert and the woods were unshaken, and their rapid fire, as well as
the responses sent from the artillery, checked the violent outfall.
Then, as the sun was getting low, the fresh German brigades struck in.
The men of the 7th Corps went down into and over the Mance valley,
and stormed up the eastern bank. The 2nd Corps, eager to win, pressed
along the highway, with their drums and trumpets sounding the change,
or moved on the south side. They passed onward in a tumult, and boldly
tried to grapple with the strong lines of the defence. Not only their
commander, Fransecky, and Steinmetz, but Von Moltke himself rode into
the defile to witness and direct this huge and uproarious column of
attack. But neither their numbers, and they were many, nor their
valour, which was great, nor the unfaltering devotion of their officers
could resist the smashing fire of cannon and mitrailleuse and chassepot
which the French brought to bear upon them. Some daring spirits pressed
close up towards the ditches and breastworks, a few clung to the banks
and bushes on the brow of the slope near Point du Jour. A dense mass
collected near St. Hubert, where Fransecky and Steinmetz, in the thick
of the throng, saw the bands who had hurried to the front break off,
turn and hasten rearward, while fresh troops still pressed upward
through the confused crowds of fugitives. So for some time, in the
twilight, the strange fight went on. As it grew darker, the outlines
of Lebœuf’s cleverly-designed shelter trenches near the Moscow farm
were drawn in lines of musketry fire, and gradually nothing, save the
flashes of guns and rifles, could be seen in the gloom. At length,
when friend could not be distinguished from foe, when no breach
could be made in the French line, which, except the outpost of St.
Hubert, remained what it had been in the morning, the Generals placed
strong guards on their front, and stood prepared to renew the battle
with the dawn. General Frossard, who had engaged all his reserves,
was proud of his achievement, and not less of the foresight he
displayed in providing artificial cover for his men. That had made the
position, from the Great Quarries to the farm and copse of La Folie,
impregnable, and renders it all the more difficult to comprehend how
Marshal Bazaine could have shown such manifest distrust of the fastness
which protected his left wing. The attack on St. Ruffine by Von Golz
was merely a diversion shrewdly designed to increase the Marshal’s
alarms, and its relative success shows how correctly Von Moltke
estimated his adversary’s abilities as a soldier. He reaped an ample
reward, since long before the last shot was fired in the neighbourhood
of St. Hubert, the French had been worsted at the other and distant
extremity of the vast field of battle.

             _The Prussian Guard on the Centre and Left._

It may be said, indeed, that not one, but several battles were fought
on the 18th of August, in the long space between the Bois de Vaux and
the Forest of Moyœuvre. They were inter-dependent, because one mass of
combatants held fast another, and the essence of the German plan was
that three-fourths of the French Army should be nailed to the positions
they had taken up, while the remainder were crushed by the pressure of
superior forces. The original design of Von Moltke was framed on the
supposition that the French right stood near Amanvillers, and that he
would be able to fling upon an exposed flank two Corps d’Armée. Before
the error was discovered, several hours had been consumed; the Guard
had been obliged to prolong the front fighting line; only a part of
the Saxon Corps could be spared to engage in the turning movement,
and the ground which they had to traverse grew longer and longer as
the day waxed shorter. The extent of country over which the various
armies operated, and the smoke which obscured the view, prevented a
correct appreciation of the situation of affairs at a given moment,
and the German commanders were liable to be deceived, and were
deceived by appearances. The knowledge that so brief an interval of
daylight remained, and an anxiety to make the most of precious moments,
quickened the tendency to decisive action, and thus brought about the
rash and premature attack which was so destructive, and nearly proved
so fatal to the Prussian Guard.

Their magnificent divisions of Infantry, it will be remembered, stood
between St. Ail and St. Marie, except one brigade which had been
annexed to the 9th Corps. It was intended that they should remain
quiescent until the Saxon column broke out upon the French right in the
direction of Roncourt, and for a brief interval of time, after five
o’clock, the action in the centre as well as on the left was confined
to a deliberate cannonade. Prince Augustus of Würtemberg, who was then
near St. Ail gazing alternatively on the ebb and flow of Manstein’s
battle in the Bois de la Cusse and towards the Bois de Genivaux, and
on the aspect of the field about St. Privat, thought he saw French
troops moving south from Roncourt. Combining this impression with the
fact that, as we have already stated, a long line of Saxon guns had
been arrayed due north of St. Marie, he rapidly formed the opinion
that the turning column was on the point of striking the enemy, and
that the moment had come when the Guard should be employed. He was
also somewhat affected by the condition of the combat in the centre,
and, perhaps, as much by the waning day which left so narrow a margin
of time for decisive activity. He appealed to Prince Frederick Charles
and easily converted the Commander-in-Chief of the Second Army to
his views. So the order went forth that the Guard should attack,
and having set Budritzki’s division in motion from St. Ail, Prince
Augustus rode to St. Marie. There General von Pape revealed to him
his misconception—the turning column was not even then in sight, and
unless preceded by bombardment from all the batteries, a front attack
on St. Privat, Pape said, would have but a slight chance of success.
Why, then, was it delivered? Because the other division of the Guard
was actually at that moment under fire and losing men by scores on the
open slope. It was a bitter moment for Prince Augustus, whose error
was to cost the Guard losses which are counted by thousands. Moreover,
General Manstein, seeing Budritzki in motion, and De Cissey, whose
division formed De Ladmirault’s right, wheeling up diagonally on the
flanks of the new foe, determined to despatch his Brigade of Guards,
the 3rd, straight upon Amanvillers, to resume the offensive with his
Hessians, and support, by all the means he possessed, the daring onset
initiated on his immediate left. Practically, therefore, although other
troops were engaged at different points on the front of the 9th Corps,
the battle on the northern half of the field was thenceforth fought out
by the Saxons and the Guard.

The character of the unequal combat was the same from end to end of
the line—superb, because it proved the steadfast valour of Prussia’s
chosen infantry; awful, because the bare fields in the track of the
onslaught were soon literally strewed with thousands of dead and
wounded. The charge of the 3rd Brigade towards Amanvillers was pushed
with such unwavering velocity that, although the ranks were thinned
at every stride, the hardy survivors, spread out in skirmishing
order, carried their front to the brow of a hill within half a mile
of Amanvillers. There they were stopped by the fire which smote them
in front and flank. Yet there they stayed undaunted, and maintained a
steady contest with antagonists who, if they tried to dash forward,
could not reach the unyielding line of the 3rd Brigade. On their left
the Hessians moved up on both sides of the railroad cutting, and
finally captured a house built for the watchman at a level crossing.
Comrades of the 9th Corps, from the Bois de la Cusse, soldiers who had
been toiling for many hours, essayed to reach the Guard, but they had
not strength enough left, and retired when they suddenly discerned,
above Amanvillers, two regiments of Grenadiers—it was Bourbaki who
had led Picard’s battalions on to the plateau, but who, distrusting
appearances visible about and beyond St. Privat, feared to plunge into
the fight at Amanvillers. Looking out from his hill, Bourbaki may have
seen the devoted march of Budritzki’s troops up the gentle slope in
front of St. Ail; for these, what was left of them, were closing on the
spur which lies south-west of St. Privat, and stretching out as far as
the high road to St. Marie, a long dark streak of fire and smoke and
the broad fields behind them black with the dying and dead. For the
constant Guards, undismayed, the remnant of a splendid division, not
only persevered and won the little rounded hill, but rooted themselves
under its shelving terraces, while the left companies, next the high
road, found shelter in its ditches. They had suffered most when beyond
the effective range of the needle-gun, in the belt where the chassepot
had rained balls as thick as hail. They could now retort the fire, and
at least keep their opponents at bay. These battalions, like those of
the 3rd Brigade, had dared all the deadly perils of the open ground;
they had bought a relative success at a heavy price, and were resolved
to retain what they had won, their line of fire extending from the high
road to the rounded eminence, or long hillock, south-west of Jerusalem.
Three batteries had driven up to aid the infantry; the main body of the
Guard Artillery had advanced eastward; and the Hessians and 3rd Brigade
prolonged the front of combat to the south.

During part of the period thus occupied General Pape, holding one
brigade in reserve at St. Marie, attacked with the other on the north
of the high road. Starting at a quarter to six o’clock, this body
of Guardsmen crossed the road facing north, and then wheeling in
succession to the right, went obstinately forward. The French fire,
from the outset, was close and deadly; officers of all ranks fell fast;
companies were reduced to straggling groups or scattered files; the
whole line was soon dispersed here and there; but they still pressed
on. One moiety trended to the right another to the left, and General
von Pape, watchful, active, and fortunate, for he was not hit, led
fresh battalions to fill up the gaping intervals. Soon after the
foremost bands had got within seven hundred yards of St. Privat, where,
in places, at least, the slope afforded shelter, the reinforcements
arrived; and it may be said that thenceforth a continuous, yet thin
line, curved inwards at the northern end, and fringed with smoke and
fire, stretched irregularly over the vast glacis-like declivities from
opposite Amanvillers to the outskirts of Roncourt, where the Saxons
prolonged the ragged and shapeless, but redoubtable array. Against this
mere thread of riflemen, not even when they were weakest, the French
directed no bold attack, perhaps because they had no reserves and stood
in respectful awe of the hostile artillery which drew nearer and nearer
as the evening wore on, until the black batteries formed a second line
to the intrepid infantry.

It was about seven o’clock. St. Privat was in flames, the black and
tawny smoke of the burning village, boiling upwards, stood out against
the obscured sky in strong contrast to the swelling clouds of white
vapour, through which leaped incessant sparkles from hundreds of
rifles, and the broader flashes of the cannon. At no preceding period
of this dreadful day had the battle raged with such intensity; for
now along the whole front of eight miles there was a deafening roar
and crash and tumult, and a murky atmosphere concealing the ghastly
sights which make these fields of carnage so appalling to the lively
imagination, which seeks in vain to realize its multitude and variety
of horror. Yet there was an element of grandeur and sublimity in the
exhibition of courage, constancy and fortitude upon such a stupendous
scale. “It is a good thing that war is so terrible,” said General
Robert Lee, “otherwise we should become too fond of it.” Here, among
these woods and villages of Lorraine, war showed in abundance its
attractive and repulsive forms.

                     _The Capture of St. Privat._

Marshal Canrobert had discerned the approaching Saxons, who were now
marching from the north upon Roncourt, Montois, and Malancourt. He felt
that his right had been turned, and looked in vain for the expected
succour. Bazaine, he says, had promised to send a division of the
Guard. Bourbaki, astounded by the spectacle which met his eyes, when he
emerged from the wooded defiles west of Saulny, had, as we have seen,
allowed himself to be attracted, for a moment, towards De Ladmirault,
had then retraced his steps, and had taken a position to cover the high
road to Woippy, the so-called northern road from Metz which goes to
Briey. He had with him, according to his own statement, three or four
thousand Grenadiers and some artillery; but he did not arrive in time
to frustrate the Saxons and Prussian Guards. The Marshal, a little
after seven, or even before, felt that he could not stand. He complains
of failing ammunition, declares that the German artillery had obtained
a complete mastery over his guns, and that his flank was turned. “At
this moment,” he says in his own picturesque fashion, “a valiant
officer, who has since been killed before Paris, and who was called
Péchot, arrived at St. Privat [from Roncourt] with the 9th battalion of
Chasseurs, the 6th and 12th of the Line. He dashed forward to stop the
enemy; but, as the enemy flung at us masses of iron, and did not come
himself, as it was shells which came instead, we could not hold on.
Péchot warned me, and we were obliged to retire. We did so by moving in
echelon from the centre, and, in good order, I emphasize the phrase,
we gained the heights beside the wood of Saulny.” The German Staff
acknowledge that the rearward movement was admirably done; but the
succinct narrative vouchsafed by the Marshal to the Court which tried
Bazaine, gives only a vague glimpse of the closing scene.

When the “valiant Péchot” retired from Roncourt before the Saxon
inroad, he skilfully put his brigade into the forest of Jaumont, on
the right rear of the original line. Colonel Montluisant, the gallant
artilleryman, having received a welcome supply of ammunition, sent up
from St. Quentin by the order of Bazaine, posting his batteries in
lines one above the other on the terraces near the wood of Saulny,
opened a sustained fire to cover the retreat. Bourbaki, although
Canrobert did not know it at the time, such was the confusion and
so thick was the air, had moved his batteries and Grenadiers near
enough at dusk to bring both musketry and cannon-shot to bear upon the
Germans. In St. Privat, glowing like a furnace, and as the darkness
became deeper, shedding a wild light upon the scene, there were still
stout and obstinate soldiers who either would not, or could not, follow
the retiring brigades. Upon these devoted troops, as the sun went down
behind the dark border of woods beyond the valley of the Orne, the
much-tried Prussian Guards and the leg-weary Saxons threw themselves
with all their remaining vigour; and in rear of them, yet far down the
slope, stepped one Division of the 10th Corps. The guns reinforced
had again been dragged forward, some overwhelming St. Privat, others
pounding Montluisant, or facing south-east, and smiting the French
about Amanvillers. Then, with loud hurrahs, the assailants broke into
St. Privat, pursued the defenders amid the burning houses, captured
two thousand prisoners, who were unable to escape from the buildings,
and developed their lines in the twilight on the plateau beyond. The
capture of St. Privat enabled the German artillery to press on once
more, each battery striving to gain the foremost place. For Canrobert’s
retreat exposed the right flank of De Ladmirault’s Corps, and, under a
scathing fire, he was obliged to throw it back, protected by Bourbaki
on the hill, and supported by a brigade promptly despatched towards
that side by Lebœuf, who, all through the eddying fight, showed a fine
tactical sense and great decision. How far the Germans were able to
push their advantage it is difficult to say, since General Gondrecourt,
who was near the place, maintains that some of De Ladmirault’s soldiers
remained through the night in Amanvillers; whereas the Germans assert
that they broke into part of the village. Be that as it may, Montigny
la Grange, La Folie, and the posts thence to Point du Jour, for
certain, were held by the French until the morning. Marshal Lebœuf has
stated that he summoned his Generals in the evening, and said to them:
“The two Corps on our right, crushed by superior forces, have been
obliged to retire. We have behind us,” he added, “one of the defiles
through which they (‘cette troupe’) may retreat. If we give back a step
the Army is lost. The position, doubtless, is difficult, but we will
remain.” He declares that the attack continued until midnight, and that
not one of his men budged a foot, which is true; but Canrobert’s men
did fly in disorder to Woippy, and De Ladmirault confessed that there
was “some disorder” in his Corps, and that what remained of them in
the wood of Saulny stood to their arms all night. The General states
his case in an extraordinary manner. “Night,” he says, “surprised us
in this situation, having gained the battle, but not having been able
to maintain our positions.” What he meant to assert was that he, De
Ladmirault had won the battle, but that the defeat of Canrobert had
obliged him to retire. The truth was that some troops remained in
Montigny la Grange, but that the rest, or nearly all of them, where
huddled together in the wood of Saulny, whence they retreated at dawn.

During the night each Corps commander received from Marshal Bazaine an
order to occupy certain positions under the guns of Metz. Canrobert,
De Ladmirault, and the Guard, marched in the night, or very early in
the morning, to the places assigned them; Lebœuf began his movement at
dawn, but Frossard kept outposts on his front line long after daylight.
During the forenoon, however, the Army of the Rhine had gained the
shelter of a fortified town, which they were not able to quit until
they marched off to Germany as prisoners of war.

The effective strength of the German Armies present on the field of
Gravelotte was 203,402 men, and 726 guns; it would not be easy to
calculate how many were actually engaged in the fight, but the forces
held in reserve were considerable. The number on the French side has
been put as low as 120,000, and as high as 150,000 men, and probably
about 530 guns. The loss of the Germans in killed and wounded was
20,159, and 493 missing. The French loss is set down at 7,853 killed
and wounded and 4,419 prisoners, many of whom were wounded men. The
disproportion is tremendous, and shows once again that, armed with the
breechloader, the defender is able to kill and injure nearly two to
one. There were killed or mortally wounded in the German ranks no fewer
than 5,237 officers and men, while the aggregate for the French is only
1,144. The loss of officers and men in the Prussian Guards, nearly all
inflicted in half an hour before St. Privat, reached the dreadful total
of 2,440 killed or mortally injured, and of wounded 5,511!

                              CHAPTER X.


The huge, stubborn, vehement and bloody conflict waged in the rural
tract between the northern edges of the Bois de Vaux and the Forest
of Jaumont, which the French Marshal called the “Defence of the Lines
of Amanvillers,” the French Army, “the Battle of St. Privat,” and the
Germans the battle of “Gravelotte-St. Privat,” established the mastery
of the latter over “the Army of the Rhine.” Marshal Bazaine had not
proved strong enough to extricate the Army he was suddenly appointed
to command from the false position in which it had been placed by the
errors and hesitations of the Emperor and Marshal Lebœuf. He had not
been able to retrieve the time wasted between the 7th and 13th of
August, by imparting, after that period, energy and swiftness to the
movements of his troops, or, if he possessed the ability, of which
there is no sign, he did not put it forth. Certain words imputed to
General Changarnier, correctly or otherwise, hit the blot exactly.
“Bazaine,” the General is represented as saying, “was incapable of
commanding so large an Army. He was completely bewildered by its great
numbers. He did not know how to move his men. He could not operate with
the forces under his orders.” So simple an explanation did not, of
course, satisfy those who could only account for a stupendous calamity
by accusing the Marshal of treason. But on the 19th of August, the
Emperor was still on the throne, and whatever thoughts may have passed
through the mind of Bazaine after Sedan, it is inconceivable that he
wilfully sacrificed the Army before that event. He was misinformed,
he could not grasp the situation, he formed conjectures, without any
solid basis, and acted on them; he was oppressed by the comparative
want of provisions and munitions; and, above all, he could not resist
the magnetism exerted by a stronghold like Metz, a magnetism which is
likely to prove fatal to other weak captains who will have to handle
armies, counted by hundreds of thousands, in the vicinity of extensive
fortified camps. The consequences of the battles of Colombey, Vionville
and Gravelotte are sufficiently accounted for by a recognition of
the errors which, from the outset, placed the Army of the Rhine in
a position whence it could have been extricated by a Napoleon or a
Frederick, but not by a Bazaine; and only quenchless wrath, born of
defeat, or “preternatural suspicion,” too rife in the French Army,
could seek an explanation in personal ambition or treason. The war
was begun without the preparation of adequate means; the operations
projected were based on miscalculations, political and military; the
Generals were selected by favour; and when the collision of Armies
took place, the French were outnumbered, out-marched, out-fought, and
out-generalled. Bazaine was no more a traitor than Prince Charles of
Lorraine in Prague, the King of Saxony in Pirna, or even poor Mack in
Ulm. He was a brave soldier, and an excellent corps commander, but
he was very far from ranking among those captains, and, according to
the first Napoleon, they are few, who have the faculty and knowledge
required to command 300,000 men. Upon his subsequent conduct, being
beyond its scope, this history has nothing to say; moreover, it would
acquire a volume to illuminate that dreadful labyrinth, the “Procès
Bazaine.” All we require to note is that, as a result of a series
of errors, the whole of which did not fall to the Marshal’s share,
one French Army had been routed and driven headlong to Chalons, and
another, the larger and better, had been worsted in combat and forced
to seek shelter within the fortified area of Metz.

The German leaders forthwith resolved, and acted on the resolve, to
take the largest advantage of success. When the broadening day showed
that the French were encamped under the guns of the forts, and that
they did not betray the faintest symptom of fighting for egress on any
side, the place was deliberately invested. On the 18th, the cavalry had
cut the telegraph between Metz and Thionville, and partially injured
the railway between Thionville and Longuyon; and the French had hardly
repaired the wire on the 19th before it was again severed. Soon the
blockade was so far completed that only adventurous scouts were able
at rare intervals to work their way through the German lines. As early
as the forenoon of the 19th, the King had decided to form what came
to be called the “Army of the Meuse” out of the Corps which were not
needed to uphold the investment of Metz, and thus place himself in a
condition to assail the French Army collecting at Chalons. The new
organization was composed of the Guard, the 4th and the 12th Corps,
and the 5th and 6th Divisions of Cavalry; and this formidable force
was put under the command of the Crown Prince of Saxony, who had shown
himself to be an able soldier. Consequently, there remained behind to
invest Bazaine, seven Corps d’Armée and a Division of Reserved under
General von Kummer, which had marched up from Saarlouis, and was then
actually before Metz on the right bank of the Moselle east of and below
the town. The main strength, six Corps, were posted on the left or
western bank, and the supreme command was intrusted to Prince Frederick
Charles. Not a moment was lost in distributing the troops so that they
could support each other, and in sealing up the avenues of access to
the place. A bridge over the Moselle, covered by a tête de pont was
constructed above and below Metz; defensive positions were selected
and intrenched, and throughout the whole circuit, in suitable places,
heavy solid works, as well as lighter obstructions, were begun. If the
enemy tried to reach Thionville by the left bank he was to find an
organized defensive position in his path, and the troops beyond the
Moselle were to assail his right flank. If he endeavoured to pass on
the other shore, similar means would be applied to bar his way. Field
works would arrest his attack, and his left flank in that case would
be struck. Egress to the west was to be opposed by abbatis, trenches
and other obstacles. Remilly, then the terminus of the railway, and
the site of a great magazine, was to be specially guarded; but if any
“eccentric” movement were attempted on the eastern area, the Generals
were to evade an engagement with superior forces. It is not necessary
to enter more minutely into the blockade of Metz, which henceforth
becomes subordinate to the main story. We have followed, so far, the
fortunes or misfortunes of the Army now surrounded by vigilant, skilful
and valiant foes; but the active interest of the campaign lies in other
fields, and bears us along to an undreamed-of and astounding end.

                     _The King Marches Westward._

One Army had been literally imprisoned, another remained at large,
and behind it were the vast resources of France. Three Marshals were
cooped up in the cage on the Moselle; one, MacMahon, and the Emperor
were still in the field; and upon the forces with them it was resolved
to advance at once, because prudence required that they should be
shattered before they could be completely organized, and while the
moral effect of the resounding blows struck in Alsace and Lorraine
had lost none of its terrible power. Therefore the King and General
von Moltke started on the morrow of victory to march on Paris through
the plains of Champagne. The newly-constituted Army of the Meuse,
on the 20th, was in line between Commercy and Briey, moving towards
Verdun on a broad front, with the cavalry so well forward that on the
22nd the Guard Uhlans were over the Meuse. At the same time the Crown
Prince of Prussia, who had continued his march from the Meurthe and
Upper Moselle, was astride the Meuse between Void and Gondrecourt,
with infantry in front at Ligny and a cavalry patrol as far forward
as Vitry. His columns had passed by roads south of Toul, from the
Moselle valley on to the Ornain, and as Toul refused to surrender when,
a little later, it was bombarded by field guns, a small detachment
was left to invest it until captured French garrison guns could be
hauled up from Marsal. On the 23rd the Meuse Army was up to the right
bank of the river, and the whole of the Third had entered the basin
of the Ornain. Both Armies advanced the next day further westward
and continued the movement on the 25th—a critical day on which they
attained positions it becomes necessary to note more minutely. The 12th
Corps, having failed on the 24th to carry Verdun by a coup de main,
halted at Dombasle on the 25th, with its cavalry at Clermont in Argonne
and Sainte-Menehould. The Guard was on the Aisne at Triaucourt, the 4th
near by at Laheycourt, the Second Bavarians on their left front, at
Possesse, the 5th Corps near Heiltz l’Evêque, the Würtemberg Division
at Sermaize on the Ornain, the 11th Corps close to Vitry on the Marne,
the 6th Corps at Vassy on the Blaise, and the First Bavarians at Bar le
Duc, whither the King had come on the 24th, by way of Commercy, from
Pont à Mousson. Thus the whole force was marching direct on Chalons,
left in front; that is, the Third Army, as a rule, was a march in
advance of the Saxon Crown Prince.

                       _The Cavalry Operations._

During the period occupied in reaching these towns and villages the
cavalry had been actively employed scouting far in advance and on the
flanks; and what they did forms the most interesting and instructive
portion of the story. As early as the 17th a troop of Hussars captured
a French courrier at Commercy, and from his despatches learned that
the Cavalry of Canrobert’s Corps had been left behind at Chalons, that
Paris was being placed in a state of defence, that all men between 25
and 35 had been called under arms, and that a 12th and 13th Corps were
to be formed. Another patrol was able to ascertain that at least part
of De Failly’s troops had retreated by Charmes, and that other hostile
bodies had gone by Vaudemont and Neufchateau; they were hurrying to
the railway station at the latter place and at Chaumont. At Ménil sur
Saulx, on the 18th, the indefatigable horsemen seized many letters, and
a telegram from M. Chevreau, Minister of the Interior, stating that the
Emperor had reached Chalons on the 17th—he really arrived there on the
evening of the 16th, having driven from Gravelotte in the morning—and
that “considerable forces” were being collected in the famous camp
on the dusty and windy plains of Champagne. Thus, day after day, the
mounted parties preceded the infantry, spreading far and wide on all
sides, so that as early as the 19th some Hussars actually rode within
sight of French infantry retreating from St. Dizier, and on the 21st
captured men belonging to the 5th Corps near Vitry. The next day the
2nd Cavalry Division rode out from four-and-twenty to six-and-thirty
miles, entering, among other places, Chaumont, where, from the station
books, they learned that De Failly’s infantry had gone on, three days
only before, in twenty trains, while Brahaut’s Cavalry followed the
road. On the 23rd the 4th Division of Cavalry had passed St. Dizier and
ridden into the villages to the east of Chalons itself. Thence Dragoons
were sent forward and these picked up information to the effect that
the French Army had quitted the great camp. Reports to this effect
had already reached head-quarters, and had moved Von Moltke to tell
General von Blumenthal, the Crown Prince’s chief of the staff, that
it would be most desirable to have prompt information showing whither
the enemy had gone. The 4th Cavalry Division, which, on the 24th, was
at Chalons camp, now abandoned, burnt, and desolate, pushed a party
towards Reims, and there found that the French Army had departed in
an easterly direction. Before this vital information arrived at the
great head-quarters the King and Von Moltke had determined that the two
Armies should, at least for the time, still move westward on the lines
appointed; and on the evening of the 25th, therefore, they occupied the
positions already described. But at this moment the Army of MacMahon
stood halted at Rhetel, Attigny, and Vouziers, within two marches of
the Meuse, between Stenay and Sedan!

In order to learn why they were there we must turn to the camp at
Chalons, which had been the scene of dramatic events, fluctuating
councils, and fatal decisions, the fitting forerunners of an
unparalleled disaster.

                  _The Emperor at Chalons and Reims._

Immediately after the first defeats befell the French Armies on the
frontier, General Montauban, Comte de Palikao, summoned by the Empress,
found himself abruptly made the head of a Government. He took, of
course, the post of Minister of War. The Empress had been Regent from
the day when the Emperor quitted Paris, and she exercised, or appeared
to do so, a great influence on the course of events. The first act of
the new Minister was to collect the materials out of which might be
formed a fresh Army, a task in the execution of which he displayed
considerable energy. The rapid march of the invader had intercepted, as
we have related, one infantry division of Canrobert’s Corps, all his
cavalry “except a squadron,” as he pathetically exclaimed, and more
than half of his artillery. These remained in the camp of Chalons,
and the Army formed was composed of these men, the 12th Corps, one
division of which consisted of Marine Infantry; then the 1st and 5th
Corps, which had come at racing speed from Alsace; and finally of the
7th from Belfort, which reached Chalons by way of Paris. There were
in addition two regiments of Chasseurs d’Afrique, and subsequently a
third—Margueritte’s gallant brigade. General Lebrun estimates that the
aggregates, including non-combatants, amounted to about 130,000 men.
It will be duly noted that this Army came almost from the four winds,
driven thither by the terrible pressure of defeat, and that many of the
new troops were recruits, without discipline or training. They were
collected together on an open plain, and had barely assembled before
the vivacious German cavalry were reported to be and, though in small
force, were close at hand. When the Emperor arrived on the night of the
16th, by far the greater part of the troops were still distant; some
speeding on their way from Chaumont and Joinville, others travelling
from Belfort, and some from Cherbourg and Paris. They dropped into
the camp in succession after the 17th, and we may note that the 7th
Corps never entered Chalons at all, but was sent on to Reims, which it
reached on the 21st. Out of this assembly of soldiers Marshal MacMahon
had to organize an Army. Moreover, the intendants, charged with the
duty of supplying the troops, had only just come up. To increase the
confusion many thousand Mobiles, who had been at an early date sent
thither from Paris, behaved so badly—some reports of their ape-like
tricks are almost incredible—that they were speedily returned to the
capital, although the Emperor and Marshal Canrobert, who had commanded
them, would have preferred, the former for political reasons, that they
should be distributed in the northern garrison towns. Nothing more
need be said of the Army of Chalons except that, although it contained
some admirable troops, none finer than the Marines, whose only fault
was that they could not march, yet that it was unfit to engage in any
adventure whatever, especially one so perilous and toilsome as that
into which it was soon plunged.

Weary, perturbed, broken in health and spirits, yet outwardly serene,
Napoleon III. slept on the night of the 16th in the pavilion of the
camp, which he had often visited when it was orderly and brilliant,
which he now revisited as a fugitive, passing silently, almost
furtively, through its disorder and gloom. With him was Prince Jerome
Napoleon, who saw the fortunes of his house, like Balzac’s _peau
de chagrin_, shrinking visibly day by day, and whose fertile mind
was alive with expedients to avert the fatal hour. He resented the
bigotry of the Empress, who would not surrender Rome as a bribe to the
Italian Court; he was pondering over and, indeed, openly suggesting
the abdication of the Emperor. Sleeping also in that pavilion was the
youth, Louis, who is barely mentioned in the French accounts after the
2nd of August; whose public life began in the tumult of a national
catastrophe and ended so tragically among the savage Zulus.

Daylight brought no respite to the Emperor. He saw around him silent
and unsympathetic throngs of soldiers bearing the marks of defeat and
rout, and it is said that he was even jeered by the Parisian Mobiles,
who had previously shouted in the ears of the astonished Canrobert, “À
Paris! À Paris!” instead of “À Berlin!”

Then came from the capital General Trochu, who had been appointed to
command the newly-formed 12th Corps, and was destined, in case of
accident, to succeed MacMahon. In conversing with the Emperor the
General developed a plan of action, which astonished yet did not
altogether displease his Majesty. Succinctly stated it was this: That
the Emperor and the Army should return to Paris, and that General
Trochu should be named Governor of the capital. The Emperor, as usual,
listened, doubted, demurred, yet did not refuse to contemplate a scheme
which promised to place him, once more, at the head of affairs, but he
gave no decision. Marshal MacMahon was summoned; he was to command the
Army which, according to the plan, was to be organized near Paris; and
when consulted he spoke favourably of Trochu as a man and a soldier,
and readily accepted the command of the Army. Prince Napoleon, so
soon to set out for Florence, if he did not suggest, supported the
nomination of Trochu, on the ground that a revolution might break out
at any moment in Paris, and that the General was the man to put it
down. It was during the prolonged debate on these perplexing questions
that some one said—“the Emperor neither commands the Army nor governs
the State;” whether the words dropped from the lips of Napoleon III.
or his cousin, Marshal MacMahon, who was present, could not remember;
but whoever uttered them they were true. There was a subsidiary and
much-disputed question—what should be done with the noisy Mobiles,
who so eagerly desired to re-enter Paris? In the end it was agreed
that, although the Emperor, for political, and MacMahon, for military
reasons, desired to give them a taste of much needed discipline in
the northern fortresses, these obstreperous battalions should be
sent to the capital. Thus it came about that Marshal MacMahon took
command of the Army and that Trochu became Governor of Paris. The new
Governor, with his letter of nomination in his pocket, set out on his
return journey; but while he went slowly by rail, M. Pietri, using the
telegraph, informed the Empress of what had been done, and alarmed her
and the Minister of War by reporting the intelligence that the Emperor
and the Army were to move on the capital. Thereupon, two hours before
the luckless Trochu set foot in Paris, Palikao had sent a remonstrance
by telegram, dated 10.27 p.m. on the 17th. “The Empress,” he said, “has
communicated to me the letter in which the Emperor announces that he
wishes to move the Army from Chalons to Paris—I implore the Emperor
to give up this idea, which will look like a desertion of the Army
of Metz.” If there was a “letter” Napoleon must have written it on
the 16th, during his journey, which is not likely; but the document
referred to was, no doubt, Pietri’s telegram to the Empress. Some
answer must have been sent from the pavilion at Chalons, after Trochu
departed, for when he saw M. Chevreau, at midnight, the Minister said
promptly—“The Emperor will not return”; and when the General exhibited
his proclamation to the Empress, beginning with “Preceded by the
Emperor,” she instantly exclaimed, “You cannot state that, because it
is not a fact; the Emperor will not come.” Thus the Trochu plan was
frustrated; yet the remarkable thing is that the Emperor had not made
up his shifting mind; for on the 18th, as Marshal MacMahon affirms,
Napoleon intimated his intention to start the next day. Still we find a
telegram from him to Palikao, dated the “18th, 9 h. 4 m.,” presumably
in the morning, in which he says, “I give in to your opinion,” so
that his resolutions fluctuated from hour to hour. A most singular
historical figure, at this juncture, is the once-potent Napoleon III.
Virtually exiled from his capital, and not permitted, if he wished, to
command his troops, he was condemned to “assist,” as the French say, at
the capture of armies, the downfall of his dynasty, and the wreck of a

These lugubrious debates, held almost within sight of the battlefield
of Valmy, went on from day to day. “What should be done with the Army?”
was the question which trod on the heels of “What shall be done with
the Emperor?” or rather both were discussed together. On the 18th
came a despatch from Bazaine, stating that the Marshal had fought a
battle two days before, that he had “held his positions,” yet that
he was obliged to fall back nearer to Metz in order that he might
replenish his supplies for men and guns. This message had crossed one
from MacMahon announcing his appointment, conveying the important
information that he was still under the orders of Bazaine, and asking
for instructions. The answer came the next evening, and it expressly
declared that, being too remote from Chalons, Bazaine left the Marshal
free to act as he thought fit. That telegram, it was the last which
came direct by wire from Metz, raised the great military question.
Palikao had already begun to insist that Metz should be relieved. The
Marshal admits that he was undecided for the moment; for if he started
for the Meuse Paris would be uncovered, and the sole remaining French
Army put in great peril; whereas, if he did not march eastward and
Bazaine did march west, then the latter might be lost. In his anguish
of mind, not knowing that the wire had been cut, he appealed, by
telegram, to Bazaine for his opinion. At the same time, on the 20th,
he forwarded a message to Palikao, which stated the case most clearly.
His information, and it was in substance correct, led him to believe
that the roads through Briey, Verdun, and St. Mihiel were intercepted
by the Germans; and he added that his intention was to halt until
he learned whether Bazaine had moved by the north or the south—the
idea that he might be shut up closely in Metz had not then matured in
MacMahon’s mind. In the meantime he saw plainly the dangers to which
he was exposed by remaining on the plain of Chalons; and, therefore,
on the 21st moved the whole Army to Reims, a long march, which tried
the inexperienced troops, and filled the country roads with hundreds of

                     _MacMahon Retires to Reims._

That very morning M. Rouher, inspired by a desire to talk with his old
master, arrived at Chalons, and proceeded with the soldiers to their
new destination. In the evening, at the Imperial quarters, MacMahon
was summoned to consider afresh the oft-debated questions of the hour.
M. Rouher explained to the Marshal his views, which were, in reality,
those of Palikao, for the President of the Senate was oppressed
with the feeling that Bazaine must be relieved. But at this moment
MacMahon was firmly resolved to march on Paris, and, possessing exact
information, he stated his case, on the occasion, with great force and
clearness. He was bound to assume, he said, that Bazaine was surrounded
in Metz by 200,000 men; that in front of Metz, towards Verdun, stood
the Saxon Crown Prince with 80,000 men; that the Prussian Crown Prince
was near Vitry at the head of 150,000 men; and consequently that if he
risked a march eastward into the midst of these armies, “I should,” he
continued, “find myself in a most difficult position, and experience
a disaster which I desire to avoid.” A most just estimate, formed on
reports which were defective upon one point only—the Prussian Crown
Prince was still about Ligny, but his cavalry, as will be remembered,
had looked in upon Vitry. Moreover, the Marshal adhered to his opinion
that the Army of Chalons should be preserved, because it would furnish
the groundwork for an organized force 300,000 strong. M. Rouher, who
acquiesced, then suggested that the Emperor should issue a proclamation
explaining the reasons why the Army of Chalons moved on Paris; which,
being done, Rouher went his way, and MacMahon drew up the order of
march towards the capital.

               _The Chalons Army directed on the Meuse._

The morning of the 22nd was spent in preparation, but, before the final
orders were issued, the Emperor received the fatal despatch, dated Ban
Saint Martin [Metz], August 19, which Marshal Bazaine had been able
to send through the German lines. After a brief description of the
battle of Gravelotte, which ended, he said, in a change of front by
the 6th and 4th Corps, the right thrown back, to ward off a turning
movement, and reporting that he had drawn in the whole Army upon a
curved line, from Longeville to Sansonnet, behind the forts, he stated
that the troops were wearied by incessant combats, and needed rest for
two or three days “The King of Prussia, with M. de Moltke,” he went
on “were this morning at Rezonville, and everything goes to show that
the Prussian Army is about to feel up to (va tâter) the fortress of
Metz. I count always upon taking a northern direction, and turning,
by Montmédy, into the road from Sainte-Menehould to Chalons, if it is
not too strongly occupied. In the contrary case, I shall continue upon
Sedan, and even upon Mézières, to reach Chalons.” The Emperor sent this
despatch to MacMahon, who inferred from it that Bazaine was about to
start, and that, after crossing the Meuse at Stenay, he should find him
in the neighbourhood of Montmédy. He, therefore, withheld the orders
directing the Army on Paris, and issued those which turned its face
to the East. Further, he transmitted a telegram addressed to Bazaine,
stating that, in two days, his Army would be on the Aisne, whence, in
order to bring succour, he would operate according to circumstances.
Soon afterwards a despatch arrived from Palikao, saying that the
“gravest consequences” would follow in Paris were no attempt made to
help Bazaine; but the Marshal had already taken his decision, though
with a dubious mind, because he knew better than the Comte de Palikao,
who was extremely ill-informed, what dangers would beset his path, and
how slight was the chance that the Army inclosed in Metz would be able
to burst through the investing lines. The Emperor remained in a passive
condition; he did not approve, he did not oppose; but he shared, as a
sort of interested spectator, in a venture determined by the operation
of political motives, and devoid of a sound military basis.

For the moment, at least, Marshal MacMahon remained steadfast to his
latest resolution; and on the 23rd the French Army moved out from its
camp near Reims. It was not directed on the Verdun road, because the
Commander-in-chief was well aware that if he was to gain Stenay, that
goal could only be attained by evading the Saxon Prince’s Army, which
would necessitate a flank march on routes farther north. The first
day’s journey was short, for the Army halted on the river Suippe,
facing north-east, with a cavalry division in front towards Grand Pré.
At this early stage provisions were so scarce that Ducrot, commanding
the 1st Corps, and Lebrun, who had the 12th, complained to the Marshal,
who advised them to do as he did when retreating from Reichshofen—live
upon the inhabitants. Yet the stress was severe, the country incapable
of furnishing sufficient supplies, and MacMahon, yielding to the
pressure, believed that the better course would be to follow the
railway. He, therefore, moved next day to Rhetel with the 12th and
5th, while the 1st halted at Juniville, and the 7th near Vouziers,
Margueritte’s flanking cavalry remaining hard by on the left bank of
the Aisne. A short march on the 25th brought all the Corps astride the
river, between Rhetel and Vouziers, with cavalry outposts at Le Chesne
and Grand Pré. The movement had begun badly; but before following
this Army farther on its devious path, we must return to the German
head-quarters at Bar le Duc, where, at length, it had become known that
the French were not retreating on Paris, but were advancing towards the

                              CHAPTER XI.

                        THE GRAND RIGHT WHEEL.

It has long been a well-authenticated fact that MacMahon’s march
eastward from Reims took the German head-quarter staff by surprise. The
reason was that they could not believe in the probability of a movement
which, from their point of view, had no defence on military grounds.
So that Marshal MacMahon with a fair, and General von Moltke with full
knowledge of the facts, really arrived at identical conclusions when
they surveyed the situation with what we may call cold scientific eyes.
The influences which governed the Marshal’s decision could not be known
at Bar le Duc on the 25th of August; but it was none the less apparent
to the cautious Von Moltke that his adversary had committed a great
error. The German was surprised, he was even somewhat embarrassed, but
he never lost his presence of mind, and he was not unprepared.

Indeed, the subject had been discussed already by himself and his
colleagues. As early as the 23rd, Prince Frederick Charles intercepted
a letter from an officer of high rank belonging to the Metz Army.
The writer expressed a confident hope that succour would soon arrive
from Chalons. Thereupon the Saxon Prince was directed to keep a sharp
look-out towards Reims, and break the railway between Thionville
and Longuyon in more places than one. The next day, at Ligny, the
Great Staff met and conferred with the Crown Prince. It was then
that Quartermaster-General von Podbielski was the first to suggest
that if a march from Reims towards Bazaine was barely admissible on
military grounds, it might be explained by political considerations,
and consequently, the General thought, the German Armies should close
to their right. The reason was not deemed sufficient, and the Armies
went on as pre-arranged. Not until eleven in the evening of the 24th
did the wary Von Moltke consider that he had accumulated information
sufficient to justify a tentative change of plans. He learned from
his own cavalry patrols that Chalons had been deserted; from a Paris
newspaper, captured on the 24th, that MacMahon was at Reims with
150,000 men; and finally he got a telegram, dated Paris, the 23rd, and
received at Bar le Duc viâ London. “The Army of MacMahon,” it said, “is
concentrated at Reims. With it are the Emperor Napoleon and the Prince.
MacMahon seeks to effect a junction with Bazaine.” Still Von Moltke
doubted. The straight line to Metz was barred, would the enemy venture
to face the risks involved in a circuitous march close to the Belgian
frontier? If he did the German Armies must plunge into the Argonne;
but at present the General decided that enough would be done were the
Army turned to the north-west, and were a keen watch kept upon its
own right by sending the cavalry, if possible, as far as Vouziers and
Buzancy. Such were the morning orders. Here it may be noted that Von
Moltke spent the afternoon in framing a plan, solely for himself, based
on the shrewd assumption that MacMahon might have quitted Reims on the
23rd, and might be over the Aisne already. If he moved on continuously
he could not be caught on the left bank of the Meuse. Therefore Von
Moltke drew out tables of marches which, had they all been performed,
as they easily might have been, would have concentrated, in full time,
150,000 men at Damvillers, east of the Meuse, and within easy reach of
the Army blockading Metz. Two corps, from that force, were also called
on to co-operate. They did move out as far as Etain and Briey, but
not being wanted they soon returned to their cantonments on the Orne
and the Yron. Thus the plan was not carried out, but it was prepared,
indeed, served as a basis, during the next two days, and was ready for
execution; and it reveals, once more, the astonishing foresight and
solid ingenuity which watched with sleepless eyes over the conduct of
the German Armies.

After he had finished the scheme by means of which he intended to
thwart MacMahon, in any case, fresh intelligence arrived—newspaper
articles and speeches in the Chamber which declared that the French
people would be covered with shame were the Army of the Rhine not
relieved; and above all a telegram from London, based on a paragraph in
“Le Temps,” of August 23rd, stating that MacMahon, although by such a
movement he would uncover the road to Paris, had suddenly determined to
help Bazaine, and that he had already quitted Reims, but that the news
from Montmédy did not mention the arrival of French troops, meaning
troops from Metz, in that region. Von Moltke was not deeply impressed
by the articles and speeches, although he begun to give some weight to
Podbielski’s shrewd remark; but the positive statement in the telegram
did move him, and he and the Quartermaster-General hastened to lay
the matter before the King. The result was that those definite orders
were issued which produced the great right wheel and sent the whole
force towards the north. Nevertheless, the strategist still insists
that, on the evening of the 25th, he had no information which gave sure
indications of the enemy’s whereabouts.

                   _The Cavalry Discover the Enemy._

These were soon forthcoming. The cavalry, set in motion at dawn, over
a wide space and far in advance of the new direction, were not long
in regaining touch of MacMahon’s Army. For the horsemen rode out
quickly, and speedily searched the country side from Dun on the Meuse
to the heart of the camp at Chalons, accumulating in their excursions
information almost sufficient to convince the circumspect Von Moltke.
This sudden display of activity and daring is a splendid spectacle.
The wind howled through the woods and swept the bare tracks, and heavy
storms of rain deluged the country from Bar le Duc to Rhetel, but the
swift march of these superb reiters was neither stayed by the blast,
the dripping woods, nor the saturated cross-roads. No hardships, no
obstacles slackened their speed, and large were the fruits of their
energy, endurance, and astuteness. Here we may observe, and it is a
remarkable fact, that hitherto the Saxon leader’s cavalry had been
directed only towards the west. The horsemen of the Third Army had
ridden within sight of Reims and on the south, or left flank, had
approached closely to the Aube. Those attached to the Saxon Prince’s
command had felt out to their immediate front and towards the Prussian
Crown Prince’s left, but had not examined the districts to their right
front. A cavalry regiment had made a tiring forced march towards
Stenay, but not a trooper was directed on Grand Pré, or on Varennes,
until the 25th. Yet there were French horse on Grand Pré on the 24th,
and it is evident that had only one division been despatched towards
and through Varennes immediately after the Saxon Prince’s troops had
crossed the Meuse, above and below Verdun, the presence of MacMahon’s
Army on the Aisne must have been discovered, and the report handed in
at head-quarters on the morning, or at latest the afternoon, of the
25th. That would have been done had General von Schlotheim, the chief
of the staff with the Meuse Army, been as careful to reconnoitre the
country on his right as Von Blumenthal was to send out horsemen to the
flank as well as the front of the westward moving host. It was not
done, and the error of judgment involved the loss of four-and-twenty

The error was promptly and amply repaired. While each corps in the
mighty Army, having wheeled to the right, was tramping north in the
driving rain through the muddy forest roads to gain the distant
bivouacs assigned them, the cavalry divisions had come up with,
watched, touched, astonished, and bewildered the French, making the
26th of August a memorable day in their camps.

Near the Meuse the ubiquitous patrols discovered troops at Buzancy;
upon the central road which runs beside the Aire, the foremost squadron
saw infantry and cavalry in Grand Pré; upon the Aisne, two adventurous
parties pressing up close to the flank and rear of Vouziers, were able
to observe and report the presence of large bodies of all arms encamped
to the east of the town, and to specify the positions which they held.
No attempt was made to attack, and there was no firing except a sputter
of carbine-shots discharged by a French at a German patrol which had
approached the left bank of the Aire near Grand Pré. The whole line of
horsemen, from the Meuse to the Aisne, was in constant communication,
and their scouting parties, eager to see and not be seen, found their
designs favoured by the abounding woods and the undulations of the
land. Thus, in one day, a thick fringe of lynx-eyed cavalry was thrust
in close proximity to the adversary many miles in front of the German
Corps, plodding their arduous way along the plashy tracks and by-ways
of the Argonne.

                      _Movements of the French._

No such bold and prudent use was made of the French cavalry by Marshal
MacMahon, whom we left with his Army still lingering near the Aisne.
The misgivings which oppressed him at Reims did not diminish during
his halt at Rhetel; and they deepened as he moved towards the Meuse.
But no doubts, based on the absence of intelligence from or concerning
Bazaine and the difficulty of supplying the Army, will account for the
misuse which he made of his cavalry. The danger he had to dread lurked
in the region to the south, yet after the 24th the duty of covering the
exposed right flank and of gleaning exact information was imposed upon
the brigade attached to the 7th Corps. For Margueritte’s division of
Chasseurs d’Afrique was, on the 25th, suddenly drawn from the right and
sent forward to Le Chesne in front of the centre pointing towards Sedan
or Stenay; while Bonnemain’s division of heavy cavalry moved slowly
close in rear of the 1st Corps, where it was useless. The incidents
of the memorable 26th, when even minutes were priceless, quickly
demonstrated the gravity of the error. On that day, at the close of a
brief march, the 12th Corps stood at Tourteron, the 5th at Le Chesne,
the 1st at Semuy, and the 7th a little east of Vouziers. Margueritte
moved on to Oches, and Bonnemain’s was at Attigny, on the left bank of
the Aisne.

Now Douay, who commanded the 7th Corps, had become anxious, for he was
on the outward flank. He sought some security by sending a brigade,
under General Bordas, to Buzancy and Grand Pré, and his strongest
regiment of Hussars to scout along the two rivers which unite at
Senuc. The Hussar patrols came in contact with the German, and it was
one of them which emptied its carbines at the hostile and inquisitive
dragoons of the 5th Cavalry Division. Retiring hastily on Grand Pré
the French Hussars handed in reports which so impressed General Bordas
that he at once contemplated a retreat on Buzancy, and forwarded the
alarming message to his Corps Commander. General Douay instantly
inferred that the dreaded German Army was not distant, and, ordering
Bordas to retreat on Vouziers, he sent the baggage and provisions to
the rear, and drew up his divisions in line of battle, at the junction
of the roads from Grand Pré and Buzancy. Just before sunset a horseman
rode up with a message that, after all, Bordas had not retired from
the village which he occupied, though he believed the road to Vouziers
was intercepted, and that the enemy might be upon him at any moment.
The remedy applied was to send forth General Dumont with a brigade
to bring him in. While Dumont marched in the darkness Douay and his
staff passed the night at a bivouac fire listening eagerly to every
sound, and starting up when the step of a wayfarer or the clink of
a horseshoe fell on their ears. About three in the morning of the
27th Dumont brought in Bordas and his brigade, together with a few
Germans who, pressing too far forward at eventide, had been captured.
Nor did the effect produced by the enterprising German cavalry end
here. General Douay had sent in to MacMahon a report of the exciting
incidents; and with the morning light came the information that the
Marshal had directed the whole Army to draw near and support the 7th
Corps. So it fell out that the mere appearance of the German cavalry
had arrested the French. But at the same time their leaders were also
told by fugitive country folk—nothing definite could be extracted from
the prisoners taken at Grand Pré—that the Prussian Crown Prince was
at Sainte-Menehould, and that another army—whence derived, in what
strength, or by whom commanded they could not imagine—was advancing
from Varennes.

            _The Marshal Resolves, Hesitates, and Yields._

We now touch on the moment when the decision was adopted which impelled
the French Army on its final marches towards defeat and captivity;
a decision mainly due to the extreme pressure exerted by the Comte
de Palikao and the Regency. Marshal MacMahon had transferred his
head-quarters to Le Chesne-Populeux, a village on the canal which
connects the Aisne and the Meuse. The 12th Corps was there, with the
5th in its front at Brieulles sur Bar; the 7th, as before, at Vouziers,
and the 1st in its rear at Yoncq; Margueritte’s horse at Beaumont, and
Bonnemain’s still about Attigny. The information placed before the
Marshal by the inhabitants and his own officers seemed to justify those
apprehensions which he had so strongly expressed at Reims, and he began
to feel again that he was marching towards that “disaster which he
wished to avoid.” In the midst of a prolonged survey of the position,
he was summoned by the Emperor who, having received some authentic
information, declared that the Prussian Crown Prince had turned from
the road to Paris and was then advancing northwards. With Napoleon III.
MacMahon remained for a long time, and came back to his head-quarters
resolved to retreat upon Mézières. Indeed, he issued orders on the
spot, directing all the Corps to retire behind the canal the next day,
and take post at Chagny, Vendresse, and Poix. Then, at half-past eight
in the evening of the 27th, he dictated to Colonel Stoffel a telegram
designed for the Minister, in which he said that there was one
hostile Army on the right bank of the Meuse and another marching upon
the Ardennes. “I have no news of Bazaine,” he went on. “If I advance
to meet him I shall be attacked in front by a part of the First and
Second German Armies, which, favoured by the woods, can conceal a force
superior to mine, and at the same time attacked by the Prussian Crown
Prince cutting off my line of retreat. I approach Mézières to-morrow,
whence I shall continue my retreat, guided by events, towards the
west.” Colonel Stoffel relates that, just as he was about to carry the
telegram to Colonel d’Abzac, with orders to forward it at once, General
Faure, chief of the staff, came in; and MacMahon, seizing the telegram,
said, “Here is a despatch which I have written to the Minister.”
Faure read, and begged the Marshal not to send it, for, said he, “You
will get an answer from Paris, which, perhaps, will prevent you from
carrying out your new plans. You can transmit it to-morrow, when we are
already on the road to Mézières.” The Marshal answered, “Send it,” and
it was sent.

The reply, so shrewdly foreseen by General Faure, was handed to the
Marshal about half-past one on the morning of the 28th. It was dated,
“Paris, August 27, 11 p.m.,” addressed to “the Emperor,” and began
with these tell-tale words, “If you abandon Bazaine,” wrote the Comte
de Palikao, “‘la revolution est dans Paris,’ or Paris will revolt, and
you will be attacked yourself by all the enemy’s forces.” He asserted
that Paris could defend herself, that the Army must reach Bazaine; that
the Prussian Crown Prince, aware of the danger to which his Army and
that which blockaded Metz, was exposed by MacMahon’s turning movement,
had changed front to the north. “You are at least six-and-thirty,
perhaps eight-and-forty, hours in advance of him,” the Minister
continued. “You have before you only a part of the forces blockading
Metz, which, seeing you retire from Chalons to Reims, stretched out
towards the Argonne. Your movement on Reims deceived them. Everybody
here feels the necessity of extricating Bazaine, and the anxiety with
which your course is followed is extreme.” The Marshal’s will broke
down under this strain. He could not bear the thought that men might
in future point to him as one who deserted a brother Marshal. Against
his better judgment he revoked the orders already issued, enjoining a
retreat upon Mézières, and put all his Corps in motion for the banks
of the Meuse. To complete the narrative of this decisive event, it
may here be said that, on the 28th, at Stonne, as the Marshal himself
has admitted, the Emperor made a last desperate appeal against the
change of plan. Another despatch from Palikao, dated half-past one in
the morning of the 28th, this time addressed to the Marshal, had come
to hand at Stonne. “In the name of the Council of Ministers and the
Privy Council,” it said, “I request you [‘je vous demande’] to succour
Bazaine—profiting by the thirty hours’ advance which you have over the
Crown Prince of Prussia. I direct Vinoy’s Corps on Reims.”

It is probable that the purport, or a copy of this telegram, was sent
to the Emperor, for he twice, through his own officers, reminded
the Marshal that the despatches of a Minister were not orders, and
that he was free to act as he thought expedient, and implored him to
reflect maturely before he gave up his intention to retreat. So much
must be said for Napoleon III.—that, at Metz, on the morrow of Woerth
and Spicheren, and at Stonne, when the toils were fast closing round
him, his military judgment was prompt and correct. But the Marshal
had decided; and the prayers of an Emperor did not avail against the
gloomy forecasts, the impassioned language, and the formal request or
demand of a Minister of War whose telegrams exhibit the depth of his
ignorance concerning the actual situation. It is not surprising that
he was ill-informed, seeing how difficult it was for officers on the
spot, German as well as French, to obtain exact knowledge; but it is
amazing that an experienced soldier and Minister of War should not be
aware of his own incompetence to direct, from his closet in Paris, an
army in the field. Palikao combined the qualities of the Dutch Deputy
with those of the Aulic Councillor; and the troops of Marshal MacMahon
tramped on to meet their approaching ruin. The positions they attained
on the 28th will be more conveniently specified later on; for it is
time to follow, once more, the footsteps of the hardy and far-marching
Germans, who were now across the direct path of MacMahon’s Army.

                      _Movements of the Germans._

How, by long and laborious marches, the tough foot soldiers, almost
treading on the heels of their mounted comrades, gained ground on the
adversary must now be succinctly narrated. On the 26th, the 12th Corps
reached Varennes, and the Saxon Prince established his head-quarters
at Clermont in Argonne. The Guard went on to Dombasle, and the 4th
Corps to a point beyond Fleury. Such were the marches of the Army of
the Meuse. In the Third Army, the Bavarians made a wet and weary night
march in the wake of the 4th Corps, attaining Triaucourt and Erize la
Petite; but for the moment, the 5th, the 6th, and the Würtembergers
stood fast. The reason for this apparent hesitation was that Von Moltke
was not yet quite convinced. King William remained at Bar le Duc all
the forenoon. Thither came the Crown Prince and General von Blumenthal
from Ligny, and, at a council held in the great head-quarters, both
of them declared unequivocally in favour of the northern march,
urging that it would be wiser to delay the movement on Paris than run
the risks of a battle in the north unless it could be fought by all
the forces which could be got together. These opinions prevailed,
and it was decided that the Bavarians should start at once, and that
the next day the other Corps of the Third Army should proceed to
Sainte-Menehould and Vavray. General von Blumenthal, indeed, had formed
a strong judgment on the situation. A few hours after the consultation
at head-quarters, writes Dr. William Russell in his “Diary,” “taking me
into a room in which was a table covered with a large map on a scale
of an inch to a mile, he (Blumenthal) said, ‘These French are lost,
you see. We know they are there, and there, and there—and Mahon’s
whole Army. _Where_ can they go to? Poor foolish fellows! They must go
to Belgium, or fight _there_ and be lost;’ and he put his finger on
the map between Mézières and Carignan.” It is a remarkable fact that
General Longstreet judging only from the telegrams which reached the
United States about this time, arrived at the same conclusion.

King William, during the afternoon, journeyed to Clermont; while
the Crown Prince drove to Revigny les Vaches, which he made his
head-quarters until the 28th. Before losing sight of Bar le Duc, we
may quote from Dr. Russell’s pages one other sentence, which affords
a brief glimpse of the great political leader in this war. In the
forenoon on the 26th, the graphic Diarist “saw Count Bismarck standing
in a doorway out of the rain whiffing a prodigious cigar, seemingly
intent on watching the bubbles which passed along the watercourse by
the side of the street;” but probably with his thoughts far away from
the evanescent symbols of men’s lives. He had entered the town with
the King on the 24th, and feared that the royal staff would linger
there for several days, “as in Capua;” yet, in a few hours, this
playful censor of delay was speeding North, like the Armies, to play a
conspicuous part in a sublime tragedy at Sedan.

In his quarters at Clermont, General von Moltke still disposed of the
Meuse Army and the Bavarians in a manner which would enable him to
effect, if necessary, that concentration at Damvillers which we saw
him meditating and devising on the afternoon of the 25th, at Bar le
Duc. Thus, on the 27th, the Guard, which came up to Monfaucon, and the
4th Corps to Germonville, were each directed to throw bridges over the
Meuse, so that there should be four points of passage in case of need.
The Bavarians followed from the rear as far as Dombasle and Nixéville,
and the other Corps of the Third Army turned frankly northward, the
5th pushing its advance-guard to Sainte-Menehould. At the same time
the Saxon Corps had crossed the Meuse at Dun and established a brigade
firmly in Stenay. The cavalry had been as active and as useful as
ever. They had covered the march of the Saxon Corps by occupying Grand
Pré, Nouart, and Buzancy, coming into contact with the French at the
last-named village. General de Failly, who, early in the morning, had
moved to Bar, observed hostile cavaliers beyond the stream, and sent
Brahaut’s brigade to drive them off and seize prisoners. That brought
on a smart skirmish, during which De Failly received orders to retreat
on Brieulles; but Brahaut was driven from Buzancy by the fire of a
horse battery; and the unlucky French General made no prisoners. There
was no other rencontre during the day, but the German cavalry on all
sides rode up close to the enemy’s posts and kept the leaders well
informed. From the reports sent in, Von Moltke inferred that there
had been a pause in the French movements; at all events, that none of
their troops had crossed the Meuse; and, as he knew that the Saxons
were in Dun and Stenay, he thought himself, at length, justified in
believing it possible that he might strike MacMahon on the left bank.
Consequently, he abandoned the Damvillers plan, and sent back to
Metz the two Corps which had been detached from the blockading army.
Therefore, while the Saxons stood fast, for one day, the Bavarians were
directed to march, on the 28th, upon Varennes and Vienne le Chateau;
the Guard upon Banthéville; and the 4th Corps on Montfaucon—the general
direction for all the Corps being Vouziers, Buzancy, and Beaumont.
During that day these orders were fulfilled, each Corps duly attaining
its specified destination; the Guard and 4th Corps, before they
started, taking up the bridges thrown over the Meuse. Four divisions
of cavalry were out prying, through the mist, into every movement of
the 5th and 7th French Corps, whose left flank, it was ascertained,
was absolutely unguarded, so that the German horse looked on, and, in
some cases, were misled by the astonishing confusion displayed by the
enemy’s vacillating motions.

                _Effects of MacMahon’s Counter-Orders._

The fatal decision adopted at Le Chesne on the night of the 27th
brought disorder and disaster upon the French Army. The wise resolve
to retreat on Mézières, strangely as the statement may sound, had
rekindled the fading spirits of the French soldiers. As soon as the
fact was communicated to them they sprung with alacrity to perform
the task of preparation. The officer who bore the order to the 7th
Corps started from Le Chesne at six o’clock, and by nine at night the
baggage, the provision transport, the engineers’ park, were actually in
motion for Chagny, through the long defile which leads to Le Chesne.
The cavalry were despatched to watch the flanks, and the infantry in
silence and darkness glided towards their first halting place, Quatre
Champs. “Everyman,” says Prince Bibesco, who was an eye-witness,
“marched with a firm step. All seemed to have forgotten the cold, the
rain, and the anxiety of the preceding days.” They drank in hope with
the refreshing air, and then their hopes were suddenly extinguished;
for as they were near Quatre Champs, at half-past five in the morning,
an aide-de-camp from MacMahon rode up to General Douay and told him the
latest decision—the Army was to move upon the Meuse.

The orders brought by the ill-omened messenger were that the 7th
Corps, that very day, should move to Nouart, which it was not destined
to reach; the 5th Beauclair, which it could not attain; that the
12th should gain La Besace, and the 1st Le Chesne, both of which
marches were duly performed. Bonnemains’ heavy brigade of horse was
sent to Les Grands Armoises, and Margueritte’s towards Mouzon, but
afterwards to Sommauthe. The 7th Corps, fearing greatly for its
baggage train, already far away, set out again and only reached
Boult-aux-Bois, the men on short rations, the horses without a feed
of oats. The same troubles beset the other corps which had despatched
their trains northward. But the largest share of ill-fortune befell
De Failly. He was ordered to march by way of Buzancy upon Nouart and
Beauclair—indeed, to get as far forward as he could on the road to
Stenay. The Marshal knew it was occupied, for he told De Failly to
expect a sharp resistance before he could carry it. But when within
sight of Harricourt and Bar his adventures began. He discerned hostile
cavalry in his path; they were vigilant Uhlans of the Guard. De Failly
halted; the cavalry increased, became enterprising, and some shots
were exchanged; but in the end the French General, finding that he
could not rely upon the support of Douay, who was resting his wearied
men at Boult-aux-Bois, and believing that the direct road to Nouart
was commanded by the enemy, he turned aside and, through narrow muddy
lanes, made his way by Sommauthe to Belval and Bois les Dames, the
last division not arriving at the camp until eight in the evening.
Nevertheless, his appearance at and south of Bois les Dames so imposed
on the German cavalry scouts that they retired from Nouart in the
afternoon. The movements and halts of both French corps had been
observed, and when night fell the Germans at Bayonville saw the French
bivouac fires beyond Buzancy and in the direction of Stenay. At this
time there were no hostile German infantry west of the Meuse nearer
than Banthéville; for the troops on the flank of the French, from
Vouziers to Dun, were wholly horsemen. No more valuable demonstration
of the priceless value of cavalry was ever made than that afforded
by the Teutons during this campaign. They were more than the “eyes
and ears of the Army;” they were an impenetrable screen concealing
from view the force and the movements of the adversary, who was still
engaged in pushing up his troops in the hope of compelling the French
to fight a decisive battle on the 30th. That hope, entertained by Von
Moltke on the 28th, was not fulfilled, because, at the last moment,
MacMahon turned his Army from Stenay upon Mouzon. On that day the King
moved on to Varennes, and the Prince, his son, to Sainte-Menehould.

              _German and French Operations on the 29th._

The position of affairs on the evening of the 28th was somewhat
perplexing, because the earlier reports sent in to head-quarters
indicated, what was the fact for a brief interval, that the French were
retiring northward. But no sooner had orders been issued to fit that
state of things than certain information came to hand which showed that
the Meuse was again their immediate objective; and it was then that, by
abstaining from provocation, Von Moltke judged it possible to move up
troops sufficient to fight with advantage on the 30th, somewhere west
of Stenay. The Saxon Prince, acting within the discretionary limits
allowed him, decided to cross the Meuse with the 12th Corps, and bring
up the Guard and 4th to Buzancy and Nouart, but to evade a battle, and
content himself with the fulfilling the task of obtaining intelligence.
The orders were issued, and, while they were in execution, one body of
cavalry tracked the 7th Corps during its painful march to Oches and
St. Pierremont, and saw the divisions settling down in their bivouacs;
and another made prize of Le Capitaine Marquis de Grouchy bearing
despatches from MacMahon to De Failly. This was an important capture,
for it not only deprived the unfortunate General of vital orders, but
it placed in the hands of Von Moltke the arrangements which the Marshal
had drawn up to guide the motions of his Corps. Out of this mishap grew
a fresh misfortune for the French.

Marshal MacMahon, on the morning of the 28th, framed his plans on the
supposition that he would be able to pass the Meuse at Stenay, and kept
the heads of his columns pointing south-west; but learning at a later
period that the Saxons were posted at that place in force—his reports
said 15,000 men—he was again, at midnight, obliged to change his
scheme, and he resolved to pass the river at Mouzon and Remilly. He,
therefore, sent out orders directing the 12th Corps and Margueritte’s
cavalry to Mouzon, for, having no pontoon train, he was compelled
to seek permanent bridges; the 1st Corps and Bonnemains’ horse to
Raucourt; the 7th to La Besace, which, as we have seen, they did not
reach, but halted at Oches and St. Pierremont; and the 5th to Beaumont,
which place they entered after weary marches and a sharp action. These
were the orders for the day which, with other useful documents, were
found in the pockets of De Grouchy. No special interest pertains to
the march of the 1st Corps. The 12th found its way safely to Mouzon,
crossed the river, and occupied the heights on the right bank, while
General Margueritte despatched some of his Chasseurs on the Stenay
road. What then happened? The Chasseurs returned and reported that
they had seen no enemy, although at that moment Stenay was held by the
enemy’s horse and foot. “They committed,” writes General Lebrun, then
commanding the 12th Corps, “the fault which in former wars was made a
ground of reproach against the French cavalry.” When in sight of Stenay
they saw no Germans and turned back instead of pushing on to and beyond
the town, or trying to do so; and the corps commander justly regards
this laxity as a grave fault. So Lebrun, resting at Mouzon, could learn
nothing, either from spies or his famous Chasseurs, respecting an enemy
then within a few miles. The irony of the situation was complete when,
a little later, the Zieten Hussars from Stenay rode up to Margueritte’s
vedettes, and found him although he could not find them. In that
fashion the French made war in 1870. General de Failly and his 5th
Corps were more severely treated, for their ill-luck and misdirection
brought upon them

                        _The Combat at Nouart._

Acting on verbal instructions, given on the night of the 28th, at
Belval, by a staff officer from the head-quarters at Stonne, De
Failly set out the next morning towards Beaufort and Beauclair, two
villages a few miles south-west of Stenay. He did not know, as we do,
that the Marshal had changed his plans, and that the officer bearing
the countermanding order had fallen into the hands of a German patrol.
The French General did not break up his camp and quit Belval until ten
o’clock in the morning, which gave the Saxons, who had been brought
over the Meuse from Dun, plenty of time to watch his movements. Indeed,
he could see them, troops of all arms, on the heights of Nouart,
moving, as he judged, in an easterly direction, which was an error,
possibly arising from some turn in the road, for the whole 12th Corps
were over the Meuse between Dun and Nouart. General de Failly disposed
his troops in two columns, one of which marched towards Beaufort by
country roads; the other, with the General, consisting of Guyot de
Lespart’s division and two regiments of Brahaut’s cavalry, made for
Beauclair. Their road lay through the valley of the Wiseppe, a sluggish
stream meandering through a marshy bottom land and passing Beaufort
on its way to the Meuse. The route through Nouart was barred by the
Germans, and when the leading French squadrons, crossing the valley
to gain the main road, began to ascend the slopes, they suddenly came
under a smart fire from infantry and guns. The French Hussars flitted
fast back across the meadows, and De Failly at once stopped the march
of both columns, putting his infantry and guns in position, and resting
them principally upon two small villages. Then ensued, about noon, an
indecisive but vexatious combat, for the Germans did not intend to
attack in force, but simply harass and delay the 5th Corps; and De
Failly, uncertain respecting the numbers which might be hidden by the
woods, dared not retort, especially as he was remote from the French
Army and without support from any other corps. So, for several hours,
the fight went on. The object of the Saxons, who descended into the
valley, was simply to detain the French, and, although the assailants
traversed the brook and the high road, pushing forward a few companies
and supporting them by an artillery fire from the heights, they did not
come to close quarters. General de Failly was of opinion that he had
repelled an attack, and that the enemy did not renew it because the
French were so strongly posted; but the truth is that Prince George
of Saxony not only held back his superior force because he had been
enjoined to abstain from a serious engagement, but was himself misled
by erroneous reports respecting the state of affairs towards Stenay.
Soon after four o’clock De Failly also drew off; he had then just
received a duplicate of the order directing him upon Beaumont. He sadly
deplores the mischance, and pathetically relates how all his wearied
troops reached Beaumont “during the night,” except the rear-guard,
which did not enter the camp until five o’clock on the morning of the

                  _The State of Affairs at Sundown._

Thus, for the French, terminated another day of error and loss, which
left three Corps still on the left bank of the Meuse. When the sun went
down, the German horse were close to every one of them except the 12th,
which, it will be remembered, was on the right bank near Mouzon. The
active cavalry moved in the rear of the 1st Corps, seizing prisoners at
Voncq, riding up to Le Chesne, and keeping watch through the night upon
the wearied 7th Corps, as it sought repose in the camps of Oches and
St. Pierremont. The German Infantry Corps, meantime, had been closing
up for the final onslaught. The 12th Corps was in and about Nouart,
covered by outposts and patrols, which stretched away to Stenay. The
Guard was at Buzancy, the 4th Corps at Remonville; the 5th Corps was at
Grand Pré, with the Würtembergers near at hand; the Bavarians had come
up to Sommerance and its neighbourhood on both banks of the Aisne; the
11th Corps stood at Monthois on the left, while the 6th Corps was in
the rear at Vienne le Chateau. The head-quarters of King William were
set up in Grand Pré, under the old gloomy castle, the Prussian Prince
was near by at the little village of Senuc, and the Saxon Prince at
Bayonville. Thus, in three days, the whole Army had drawn together,
facing north, and was ready, at a signal, to spring forward and grapple
with the enemy who had committed himself so rashly to a flank march in
the face of the most redoubtable generals, and the best instructed,
disciplined and rapidly-marching troops in Europe.

Examining attentively the reports which reached him from all points of
the extensive curve upon which the cavalry were so active, and poring
over the map, General von Moltke at length formed a definite judgment
on the position as it appeared to him through this medium. He inferred
that the Army of Chalons was marching in a north-west direction towards
the Meuse; that its principal forces were then probably between Le
Chesne and Beaumont, with strong rear guards to the south; and the
practical result of his cogitations was that the German Armies should
move upon the line Le Chesne-Beaumont in such a way as might enable
them to attack the enemy before he reached the Meuse. Therefore, the
Saxon Prince’s Army, except the Guard, which was to become the reserve,
was to march early on Beaumont, two Corps of the Third Army were to
support the Saxon onset, but the left of that Army was to march on Le
Chesne. As a matter of fact, the French, in part at least, were nearer
the Meuse than Von Moltke supposed, for the 12th Corps was on the right
bank, and the 1st at Raucourt; while the 7th was at Oches, the 5th at
Beaumont, and there were no troops at Le Chesne except stragglers.
MacMahon took in the situation; he was resolved to pass the river
“coûte que coûte”: and his chance of doing so, even then, depended
on the rapidity with which his troops could march. The 5th Corps was
struck and routed the next day, but the French Army did succeed in
effecting a passage over the stream.

                       _The Battle of Beaumont._

The German Armies had now fairly entered the Ardennes, formerly the
northern district of the old province of Champagne. It is a land of
vast woods which crowd one upon another between the Bar and the Meuse.
Looking from some smooth hill-top, the landscape, in summer, wears
the aspect of a boundless forest, the dark furrowed lines of shadow
alone indicating the hollows, gullies, ravines, and defiles. Here and
there may be seen a church or château, or a glimpse may be caught of
a road bordered by tall trees. The woods are so dense that infantry,
still less guns and horsemen, cannot work through them, or move at all,
except upon the high roads, lanes and tracks, worn by the villagers and
farm people. Marshy brooks lurk under the green covert, and rivulets
burrow their way through steep banks. Yet there are open spaces in the
maze of verdure, farmsteads and fields, and rounded heights whence the
tourist may contemplate the extensive panorama. It is not a country
which lends itself easily to military operations, but one more suitable
to the sportsman than the soldier. The boar of the Ardennes is still
famous and it is on record that a certain Herr von Bismarck, once upon
a time, hunted the wolf through the snow in the very region where he
was hunting the French in August, 1870.

It was amidst these thickets, dingles, and almost pathless wilds that
the French had to retreat and the Germans to pursue. We have seen that
General de Failly’s Corps was struggling all night to reach what they
hoped would be a comparative haven of rest at Beaumont, a bourgade
upon the high road from Le Chesne to Stenay, planted down in a hollow,
surrounded by gardens, and having in its centre a fine church visible
from afar. Here he pitched his tents, so that his tired soldiers might
recover from the fatigues they had endured in useless marches; and he
thought, in his simple way, that he might safely defer his march until
the afternoon. Yet Marshal MacMahon had visited the camp early in the
morning, and if he used language to De Failly, as he probably did,
similar to that which he employed at Oches, it should have quickened
the General’s movements and saved him from defeat. For, after visiting
Beaumont, MacMahon, much concerned for the 7th as well as the 5th
Corps, rode into the camp at Oches. The trains had entered the defile
leading to Stonne, some hours earlier, preceded and escorted by the
brigades of Conseil Dumesnil’s Division, and the 2nd Division was just
about to start, leaving the 3rd as a rear-guard. “You will have 60,000
men upon your hands, this evening,” he said, “if you do not succeed in
getting beyond the Meuse.” Urging Douay to get rid of his heavy convoy,
and “coûte que coûte,” cross the river, he indicated Villers below
Mouzon as the point of passage, and rode away. The misfortunes of the
7th Corps, also much tried, will be related later; but it may be said
that they did not reach Mouzon, for their outlet from the toils proved
to be the southern gate of Sedan!

                   _The Surprise of the 5th Corps._

Inspired by the hope of closing with the enemy, the German Armies were
astir at dawn, and soon long columns of men and guns were tramping
steadily northward; but, for the present the narrative is concerned
only with the Saxon 12th, the Prussian 4th, and Von der Tann’s
Bavarians. These troops advanced through the forests, the Saxons
near the Meuse, the 4th in the centre by Nouart and Belval, and the
Bavarians, from their distant bivouac at Sommerance, upon and beyond
Sommauthe. Now it was originally designed that the two Corps, on the
right and centre, should attack simultaneously, and to insure this,
each column, on arriving at the skirts of the forest, was directed
to halt under cover until it had ascertained that the others on each
flank had also gained the edge of the woods. But it turned out that the
Saxons, from the start, were delayed by various obstacles which impeded
not only the artillery, but the infantry. The leading division of the
4th Corps met with fewer obstructions on its route through Belval, and
thus arrived first on the scene of action. On the line of march in the
forest, intelligence was picked up which quickened its motions, and a
squadron sent forward confirmed the statement that the French about
Beaumont reposed in thoughtless security. The Corps Commander, Von
Alvensleben I.,—for there were two who bore the name in this Army,—an
officer ever ready to go forward, was present with the advance-guard
of the division, and not likely to hold it back. So the soldiers
advanced in silence. On approaching the open country, the Hussars in
the front glided out of sight, and a company of Jägers crept towards
the selvage of the wood, and, from a hillock near a farm, they saw,
only six hundred paces distant, a French camp, and beyond other camps.
The cavalry horses were picketed, the artillery teams had not returned
from seeking water, the soldiers were either resting or employed on the
routine work of a camp. What should be done? Here was an absolutely
unguarded Army Corps, ignorant that an enemy was within short musket
range. The divisional commander had orders to await the arrival of
lateral columns, but he felt that the Frenchmen might discover his
unwelcome presence at any moment. He had only a brigade on the ground,
yet the temptation to seize an opportunity so unexpected, was almost
irresistible. He, therefore, decided to attack as soon as his brigade
could deploy, and his batteries plant themselves in a favourable
place. Suddenly the men in the French camp were all in motion. General
von Alvensleben inferred that the proximity of his troops had been
perceived, whereas the activity displayed, as we learn from De Failly,
was caused by an order to fall in before starting for Mouzon. Without
waiting, however, until the battalions in rear could reach the ground,
Alvensleben opened fire, and the shells bursting in their camp, gave
the first warning to the French that their redoubtable adversaries were
upon them. General de Failly says that the grand-guards had not had
time to signal the enemy’s presence, and that his own information led
him to believe that the Germans had marched upon Stenay. The verdict of
Marshal MacMahon upon his subordinate is that “General de Failly was
surprised in his bivouac by the troops of the Saxon Crown Prince.”

The French soon recovered from their disorder, swarms of skirmishers
rushed out towards the assailants, some batteries went rapidly into
action; and the combined fire of shells and bullets wrought havoc
among the Prussian gunners and the infantry, hitting even those on
the line of march. They did not yield to the pressure; and when the
French delivered a determined attack it was repelled by volleys and
independent firing. Then the French got several batteries into position
on the hill side north of Beaumont; the Germans were reinforced by the
arrival of guns and foot, for the other division of the Corps came up
and at once deployed on the right of its comrades. At this time, a
little after one o’clock, the Saxons on the right, next the Meuse, and
the Bavarians on the left, who had been marching since five o’clock in
the morning, had also begun to take part in the fight. King William
and his vast Staff, posted on a hill off the road from Buzancy, and
his son, on a similar elevation near Oches, were closely watching the
battle, discernible thence in its general smoky features, at least by
the King.

General de Failly had no desire to fight a regular engagement. His aim
was to put his troops in order and offer as much resistance as might be
required to cover his retreat upon Mouzon, distant only six miles. He,
therefore, relied on his line of guns above the village, and they were
effective, for some time; but he showed great apprehension lest his
left, or Meuse flank, should be turned. Seeing the German lines develop
and grow stronger, in men and guns, feeling the new power brought
to bear by the Saxons, who, cramped for want of room, were pressed
close to the river, and, hearing the Bavarian guns on his right, he
made one more vigorous effort to arrest the 4th Corps. Thick lines of
skirmishers, followed by supports in close order, dashed forward with
such valour and impetuosity that they drove in the covering infantry
and charged to within fifty paces of the guns. The danger was great,
but the Germans rapidly flung everything near into the contest,
gained the mastery, compelled the gallant Frenchmen to wheel about,
followed them promptly, captured the southern camp, and then poured
into Beaumont itself upon all sides. But the chassepot had told, and
the Germans paid heavily, as they always did and were ready to do, for
their persistent courage and well-tempered audacity. With the town fell
the other camps; and then, for a time, the infantry combat ceased. But
the artillery advanced, as usual, and engaged in a long duel with the
powerful line of batteries established by the French to facilitate the
retreat of their infantry and arrest pursuit. Although not able to
stand up against 150 guns, they did not retire until their infantry
had got into another position between the Yoncq brook and the Meuse.
Then the batteries cleverly withdrew in succession, and before the 4th
Corps could advance, De Failly’s troops disappeared in the woods, and
were seen no more until they were reached beyond the hills and thrust
headlong into Mouzon.

While the 4th Corps was pulling itself together after the onset, De
Failly had been compelled by the impenetrable wood of Givodeau to
divide his forces, the left and the reserve artillery following the
main route to Mouzon took post above Villemontrey, close to the Meuse,
and derived support from guns and infantry which Lebrun had put into
position on the high land in an elbow of the river on the right bank.
The right wing hurried round the western side of the Givodeau thickets,
and found a post upon a plateau beyond. In the meantime, General Lebrun
had ordered two brigades of infantry, commanded by Cambriels and
Villeneuve, and a cavalry division, to cross the river at Mouzon, but
Marshal MacMahon, riding up, ordered back Cambriels, and all the horse
except two regiments of cuirassiers. Those we shall presently meet
again. The German right wing vainly endeavoured to drive De Failly from
Villemontrey, and, after repeated attempts and much loss, desisted from
the enterprise; but kept a strong force at hand and a large number of
guns in action.

Meantime a singular incident had occurred to the west of Beaumont.
Just as the Bavarians were about to join in the attack on the camps
by throwing themselves on the French flank, they were fired on from
a farm called La Thibaudine and a hamlet named Warniforêt. They
were astonished because the presence of an enemy there was not even
suspected. The enemy was also astonished and still more frightened.
The combat was caused by a French brigade, which had wandered from its
line of march. It seems that the advance brigade of Conseil Dumesnil’s
division preceding the transport of the 7th Corps, a series of wagons,
nine miles in length, had been ordered by MacMahon, who met them, to
move by Yoncq instead of La Besace, and that, when the rear brigade
came up to the point of divergence, the marker left to give information
having disappeared, these unfortunate troops went forward on the great
road to Beaumont. A staff officer arrived just as the action began,
and he was leading the errant troops back, when the Bavarians emerged
in view. The conflict which ensued was sharp, but it delayed the 7th
Corps and ended in the rout of the French, who fled as best they could
through Yoncq towards Mouzon. About this time Douay was at Stonne;
the Uhlans of the Guard had followed him step by step, and bringing a
horse battery to bear on his rear guard, had induced General Dumont to
halt, deploy the brigade, and in his turn open fire; but General Douay
promptly appeared and stopped the action, having made up his mind that
the pressing duty of the hour was to get over the Meuse in accordance
with the Marshal’s desire. So the 7th, after some hesitation, retired
upon Raucourt, hoping thence to gain Villers below Mouzon; yet, being
pursued by the Bavarians, they were overtaken and attacked outside
Raucourt, and, hearing that the bridge was broken, they turned, some
upon Remilly, and others through Torcy into Sedan itself.

                        _The Flight to Mouzon._

When the left wing of the 4th Corps, pressing towards the defile of
the Yoncq and the slopes above it, sought to discover the French on
that side, they were at first sharply punished; but, following on, they
came up and closed with their adversaries. One brigade of Bavarians had
been sent to the 4th Corps and moved on the left flank of the toilsome
advance. For the ground was difficult, the obstacles numerous, and the
French, though shattered and dispirited, still displayed a fighting
front. But at length, late in the afternoon, the Germans mastered a
hill-top whence adverse artillery had fired upon the assailants; and
then these fairly entered the plain before Mouzon. Here, however, the
French occupied an isolated hill, called Le Mont de Brune, close to
and almost overhanging the Faubourg of Mouzon, from which its summit
is less than a mile distant. Unluckily for them they formed front
facing eastward, apparently anticipating an attack on that side; but
the Germans promptly turned the flank from the south and south-west,
and drove the defenders down the steep slopes towards Mouzon, capturing
ten guns. The victorious forward movement brought the leading companies
in front of Villeneuve’s brigade and the Cuirassiers in the plain. The
Germans halted, and opened a steady fire, when suddenly they beheld
the 5th Cuirassiers coming down on their left flank and rear. Captain
Helmuth, who commanded the three companies exposed to this ordeal,
made the left company face about in time, and then forbidding his men
to form rallying squares or groups, ordered them to stand fast as they
were, and only open fire when he gave the signal. The gallant French
horsemen, as was their wont, rode straight upon the infantry; but
the independent firing opened on them at point blank range, broke the
impetus and crushed in the head of the charging squadrons. Colonel
Contenson fell mortally wounded within fifteen paces of the infantry
line; and, although some fiery spirits dashed into their ranks, and one
engaged in single combat with Captain Helmuth until he fell pierced by
ball and bayonet, yet the whole mass of cavalry was routed with immense
loss, and driven into the Meuse.

For, by this time, the wreck of De Failly’s Corps was in full retreat
on all sides, and troops, artillery, transport trains, and stragglers,
were crowding on towards the bridge. When his right was turned by
the movement upon the Brune hill, and still further by the march of
the Bavarian brigade upon Pourron, De Failly quitted his post at
Villemontrey, which enabled the right division of the 4th Corps, the
Saxon regiments fighting by its side, and the artillery to push on
by the main road to Mouzon. After the first surprise of the Beaumont
camp, the French had mainly stood, here and there, to facilitate
their retreat, and the contest, which went on all the afternoon
among the woods and hills and ravines, was really a running fight.
The Germans had pursued with relentless pertinacity. Their soldiers
had been marching all day, but they seemed to be tireless, for they
never halted until the fugitives were over the Meuse, or the darkness
forbade further motion. De Failly had been surprised and thrust in
disorder over the river, and when the evening closed the Germans were
in possession of the faubourg of Mouzon, and of the bridge at its
western end. The 7th Corps, cut off from Villers, had moved, in a state
bordering on panic, upon Remilly; but there they found Bonnemains’
cuirassiers, the tail of a division belonging to the 1st Corps, and
a baggage column. The Meuse had been dammed to fill the ditches of
Sedan, and not only were the fords rendered useless, but the swelling
stream was unusually high. Douay, halted at seven o’clock, became
impatient after dark, and at ten rode down to the bridge. He found
the cuirassiers engaged in passing over the feeble construction. “The
horses,” writes Prince Bibesco, “affrighted, because they could not see
the shaking planks hidden by the water, and shifting under their steps,
moved with hesitation, their necks extended, their ears erect. Sitting
upright, shrouded in their large white cloaks, the cuirassiers marched
on silently, and appeared to be borne on the stream. Two fires, one at
each end of the bridge, flung a ghastly light on men and horses, and,
flickering on the helmets, imparted a fantastic aspect to this weird
spectacle.” At length the white horsemen passed over; but when the turn
of the artillery came the horses were still more recalcitrant, and the
passage was so slow that, at two in the morning of the 31st, only three
batteries and two regiments of foot had passed the Meuse. Douay then
learned that the Marshal had ordered all the Army to assemble at Sedan,
and he moved the rest of his Corps over the bridge at Torcy. These few
details will give some idea of the terrible disorder which prevailed
throughout the French Army.

On the evening of the 30th the Germans were upon the Meuse. The 4th
Corps was before Mouzon; one Bavarian Corps at Raucourt, the other at
Sommauthe; the 5th and 11th Corps about La Besace and Stonne; the 12th
was near the Meuse in front of Beaumont, and the Guard just behind
them; the Würtembergers were at Verrières, and the 6th Corps well
out to the west at Vouziers. On this flank also were the 5th and 6th
Cavalry Divisions threatening and watching the French communications;
while the 12th Cavalry Division was astride the Meuse at Pouilly,
and one of its squadrons, evading and passing through Margueritte’s
vedettes, had discovered and reported the presence of French troops on
the Chiers near Carignan, and the movement of trains on the railway
towards Sedan.

So ended this ominous day. The Army of the Meuse had lost 3,500 men in
killed and wounded, but they had routed one French Corps, and fractions
of two others, and they had captured forty-two guns. The French loss
is set down at 1,800 killed and wounded, but the Germans aver that,
included among the 3,000 acknowledged to be missing, there were 2,000
who bore no wounds.

                             CHAPTER XII.

                          METZ AND STRASBURG.

At the very moment when the Army of Chalons, instead of marching
on its way to Montmédy, found its Corps huddled together at Sedan,
between the river and the Belgian frontier, some information of the
movement undertaken by MacMahon, who yielded his better judgment to
the importunate entreaties (les instances) of Palikao, reached Marshal
Bazaine in Metz. He had already, on the 26th of August, collected a
large mass of troops upon the right bank, in order to break out towards
Thionville; but the rain poured down all day in torrents, and, after
a consultation at the Farm of Grimont with his Marshals and Generals,
whose opinions were adverse to the sortie projected, he issued an order
directing the Army to resume its former quarters. But, on the 29th, a
messenger who had crept through the German lines, handed to the Marshal
a despatch from the officer commanding in Thionville, Colonel Turnier,
stating that General Ducrot, with the 1st Corps, should be “to-day,
the 27th,” at Stenay on the left of the Army, General Douay on his
right being on the Meuse. Bazaine seems to have had doubts respecting
the authenticity of this missive, the handwriting of which his staff
did not recognize; but the next morning, about eleven, an agent of
his own came in from Verdun. He was the bearer of a telegram from the
Emperor—it was really the message drawn up by MacMahon on the 22nd
of August, copied, apparently, in cipher, by Napoleon, and intrusted
to Bazaine’s emissary. The despatch, which had no date, stated that
the sender would march towards Montmédy, and when on the Aisne, would
act according to circumstances, in order to succour the Metz Army.
Regarding the second document, though antecedent in point of time, as
a confirmation of the first which he had received, Marshal Bazaine, on
the 30th, issued the orders which, the following day, led to

                     _The Battle of Noisseville._

His plan, succinctly described, was to break through the line of
investment on the right bank of the Moselle by directing three Corps,
the 3rd, 4th, and 6th, principally upon St. Barbe, and he hoped, if
successful, to march them forward upon Kedange, while the Guard and
the 2nd Corps followed the track by the river. He estimates the force
which was available for battle at 100,000 men, but he probably had
more; at any rate, the delays which had occurred on the 14th of August,
and were in part repeated on the 31st, shows how arduous is the task
of issuing with such masses from a fortified town and position astride
of a river. The weather was not favourable, for the continuous rain
had soaked the ground, and at dawn a thick fog, which hung about for
several hours, impeded the operations. The Germans had been more than
usually on the alert since the abortive attempt on the 26th, and had
thought it expedient to include Noisseville within the line of defence.
The noise and preparations in Metz did not escape their notice, but
the dense mist concealed much from their searching gaze. Yet they saw
and heard enough, both on the eastern and western fronts of Metz, to
warrant a belief that a resolute onset was impending. As the fog bank
rolled away, the batteries and the massing of troops became visible,
and General von Manteuffel transmitted the results of his careful
observations to Von Steinmetz and Prince Frederick Charles, both of
whom made instant arrangements to support the 1st Corps and the other
troops on the right bank. The forenoon passed by, and, except some
slight skirmishes and a brief artillery duel, no action ensued. About
midday the French sat down to cook, and the smoke from their fires rose
in clouds, indicated their position, but hid them from view; at the
same time, although the sun was shining, the culinary haze concealed
the workmen engaged in throwing up shelter for the heavy guns drawn
from the forts; and the German leaders arrived at the conclusion that
the onslaught would be deferred until the next day; their soldiers also
fell to cooking, and some fractions recrossed the Moselle to join their
main body; but their attention to the phenomena before them was not

Yet the afternoon began to wear away. It was not until half-past two
that Marshal Bazaine gave that signal for attack which was nevertheless
not obeyed until another hour and a half had been consumed. The
signal was a salvo from the battery of heavy guns placed behind
the field works hastily thrown up in front of Fort St. Julien. The
battlefield of the 31st was one with which we were made acquainted
when Von Golz took upon himself to arrest the retreat of the French
over the Moselle on the 14th of August. It extended from Mercy les
Metz by Colombey, Noisseville, and Failly to Malroy on the Moselle.
The French assailants, therefore, had to cross the ravines east of
Borny and work up both banks of the Vallières brook which, rising near
St. Barbe, enters the Moselle opposite the Isle Chambière. The 6th
Corps, Canrobert’s, was to attack by the river road towards Malroy; De
Ladmirault, with the 4th, was to move by Failly and Vrémy to outflank
St. Barbe on its right, while the left of that position was to be
carried by Lebœuf’s 3rd Corps; and Frossard, with the 2nd, was to
follow and cover the right flank of Lebœuf. The Guard, the cavalry, and
reserve artillery were to stand between Fort St. Julien and the Bois
de Grimont, and all the baggage was to be ready in the Isle Chambière.
The Germans were prepared to meet such an attack, but, as we have said,
they had come to believe that it would be deferred.

Suddenly, about four o’clock, the dead silence was broken by a salvo
from the heavy guns, followed by the fire of De Ladmirault’s batteries.
Then the action began along the whole front, the Germans at once
developing a powerful line of fifty guns about Servigny and Poix, far
in advance of the main line of defence, and bringing other pieces to
bear from different points. Nevertheless, favoured by the broken ground
and resolute to win, the French infantry persistently advanced until
about six o’clock they had driven in all the foreposts, and had gained
possession on their right of Noisseville, the garrison of which village
they curiously complain held out longer than they were entitled to do.
The capture of Noisseville facilitated the principal attacks which were
directed upon Servigny and Poix, villages which served as redoubts
guarding the avenues to St. Barbe, the culminating point in the region.
At the same time the French right had pushed well forward towards
Retonfay, the object being to protect the flank of the 3rd Corps, now
in motion upon the central posts of the German line. Here the contest
was severe, and in the end the great line of guns which had held De
Ladmirault at bay so long, unable to bear the musketry fire in front
and flank, was compelled to withdraw behind the villages. But, although
the French infantry came up boldly on both flanks, as well as in front,
they were unable to overcome the sturdy defenders, in whose possession
the villages remained at dark. The French left under Canrobert had made
repeated attacks upon Failly, which met with no success, and he halted
at Chieulles and Vany: so that the movement near the Meuse had secured
but little ground. At dark the French had not done more than occupy a
line extending from Canrobert’s right in front of Villers l’Orme to
Noisseville, and thence by Flanville to Château d’Aubigny. By this
time General von Manteuffel had been reinforced by two brigades of
Landwehr, and the 25th Division, under Prince Louis of Hesse, which had
crossed the Moselle, and considerably strengthened his right wing. Then
occurred a remarkable incident. General Aymard, about nine o’clock,
creeping silently up to Servigny, flung forward his division, and,
without firing a shot, burst in upon the surprised Germans, engaged in
preparing the defences, and carried the place. Astonished and enraged,
General von Gayl immediately gathered up a force, and breaking, in his
turn, upon the enemy, drove him out and recovered possession before ten
o’clock. Aymard’s is an example of a night attack well performed; but
the weak defence of what had been skilfully won, was not so creditable
to the French.

During the night General Manstein, with the other half of the 9th
Corps, crossed the Moselle, halted in rear of the German right wing,
and thus enabled the Hessian Division to take post behind St. Barbe.
A dense fog again filled the valley at dawn, but at an early hour
General von Manteuffel, holding his ground in the centre and on the
right, brought his batteries to bear upon Noisseville and promptly
assumed the offensive. The place was strongly occupied and stoutly
defended. Although the Germans broke in for a moment they were
speedily expelled, and several hours elapsed before the village fell
into their hands. But throughout the day, except towards Rupigny and
Failly, the French stood on the defensive. For the Germans arrayed 114
guns on the hills, crushed the adverse artillery, and prevented the
French infantry from making any combined attack. The position on their
right was soon rendered less safe by the arrival of a brigade of the
7th Corps which, coming up from Laquenexy, drove the French out of
Flanville. This demonstration on the right of Marshal Lebœuf’s line,
together with the terrible fire of the German artillery, induced him,
about eleven o’clock, to draw back the whole of his troops and allow
his adversary once more to occupy Noisseville. On the French left,
Marshal Canrobert’s soldiers had been forced back upon Chieulles, and
the attacks upon Failly had wholly failed. Prince Frederick Charles
who, at Malancourt, had heard the opening cannonade at Sedan on the
morning of the 1st, took up his post of observation on a hill towards
the Moselle before eight o’clock, and provided for the arrival of
strong reinforcements, should they be needed, from the left bank,
but only the 10th Corps passed the Moselle and was stationed between
Argancy and Antilly. The retreat of Marshal Lebœuf had been followed by
that of the other corps, and a little after noon the French Army was
marching back to the camps and bivouacs whence it had advanced on the
31st. The great sortie had signally failed in opening a road through
the investing lines. The French had 3,547 officers and men killed
and wounded, including in the latter category four Generals, one of
whom, Manèque, mortally. The German loss was 2,976 killed and wounded.
Marshal Bazaine estimates the number he put in the field at 100,000;
the German authorities say they began the fight with 40,800 men and 138
guns; and at the end of the encounter had over the Moselle 73,800 men
and 290 guns.

Marshal Bazaine and his troops re-entered their prison on the
afternoon of the day when the white flag was hoisted on the Citadel of
Sedan; and with his and their subsequent misfortunes we have nothing
more to do in this work. Neither is it our business to consider whether
by marching up instead of down the right bank he could have escaped
with some portion of his Army safe and sound to the South of France.
That he did his uttermost to push through on the 31st is the contention
of the German staff, but it is doubtful whether on the second day
the same spirit prevailed. All the knotty questions suggested by the
military situation about Metz and elsewhere at the end of August could
only be adequately discussed by entering upon a history of transactions
with which we have no present concern. The essential fact is that the
French Marshals tried to break the barrier and failed at a moment
when even their success could not have prevented the capitulation at
Sedan. The attempt demonstrated the immense advantages of a carefully
prepared defensive position combined with a readiness to use artillery
in the front line from the first, and an equal readiness to become
the assailant whenever a useful opportunity occurred. But to the mind
of this writer the moral of the Metz episode in the great war is the
danger attending these large intrenched camps, which will certainly
exert in the future, as they have in the past, an irresistible
attraction upon inferior commanders, and will task the intellect,
and the ingenuity and the firmness of the greatest to put them to a
proper use. Neither Bazaine nor any colleague in superior command
could be described as a man of genius, and to such soldiers, while war
is conducted on a vast scale and armies in the field are numbered by
the hundred thousand, places like Metz will not cease to become traps
in which frustrated or beaten armies will be caught and captured,
sometimes, it may be, by force or stratagem; usually by stress of
famine. Meantime the issue of the war will be decided, as it always
has been, by the belligerent who is able to keep the field.

Although huge Armies had penetrated so swiftly into France on the
morrow of the frontier victories, there were still, besides the
fortress of Metz, which was in an exceptional case, several other
strongholds which stood out defiant upon the main lines of the German
communications. They were Verdun, Toul, Bitsche, Phalsburg, Strasburg,
and, at a later stage, Belfort. Each of these, except the last-named,
required to be, and were, watched or invested by troops drawn from
the active Armies or the reserves in Germany; but they had little or
no influence upon the colossal events which decided the issue of what
we have called the Campaign of Sedan. Strasburg alone was a cause of
any anxiety, because the Germans were eager to obtain possession of
a fortress the fall of which would give them undisputed command of
the Rhine, and become of great value in the event of unlooked-for and
improbable reverses. General von Werder, with the Baden Division,
after the battle of Woerth, had been sent to invest the town, and he
arrived before it on the 11th. It is not intended to relate in these
pages the siege of Strasburg, which properly belongs to the story
of the Franco-German war as a whole. The point to note is that the
regular siege was preceded by a useless bombardment. The engineer
desired to proceed in the orthodox way; the chief of the staff wished
to try the more violent method. He insisted that a bombardment would
terrify the inhabitants, and make them exert such a pressure on the
Governor, General Uhrich, a gallant veteran, as would compel him
to surrender. The dispute was determined by an appeal to the Great
Head-quarters, then at Pont à Mousson, and General von Moltke, who
desired that the place should be taken in the shortest possible time,
and that the 40,000 men before it might be available for other
operations, decided in favour of the bombardment. The consequence
was that dreadful sufferings were inflicted upon the inhabitants of
Strasburg, and terrible devastation brought upon the town, but that the
cruelty did not attain the end in view; and that the wise engineer was
permitted to apply his method at a moment when, had his advice been
adopted, the besieging Army would have been near the success which
was ultimately attained. The bombardment of Strasburg was not only an
error regarded from a military point of view, it was a great political
blunder; for who can doubt that the agonies endured in the last days
of August, 1870, and the resentment created by the awful destruction
of life and property, have materially helped to render inveterate that
hostility to German rule which even now reigns in Strasburg as strong
as ever. Strasburg would have been captured, probably at an earlier
date, had there been no bombardment, humanity would have been spared
a heartrending spectacle, and Germany would have profited by showing
some deference towards the feelings and some regard for the lives of
the people whose town it was intended to restore to the Reich, and over
whom she had determined to rule. It was only on the 26th, when the
King had just turned northward from the Ornain to hunt after MacMahon,
that Von Werder, finding Uhrich resolute, decided to proceed by way
of a regular siege. After the end of the month the fortress ceased to
be, in any sense, a danger to the German Armies, which, whether closed
around Metz or marching westward through France, could afford to await,
with calmness, the certain surrender of Strasburg, an end which might
have been attained just as quickly had the wisdom of King William’s
statesmen been called in to sustain the sound judgment of General
Schulz, the accomplished Engineer.

                             CHAPTER XIII.


                          _German Decision._

While Strasburg was enduring the agonies of a siege and bombardment,
and the “Army of the Rhine,” already oppressed by “la question des
vivres,” was chafing in its restricted camps under the cannon of Metz;
while Paris was quivering with excitement and barely restrained from
bursting into open revolt, the victorious German host was closing
steadily, yet swiftly, round the distracted and misguided Army of
Chalons. It was pressed in so closely on the Belgian frontier that,
during the afternoon of the 30th, before De Failly had been driven
over the Meuse, Count Bismarck sent a formal communication to the
German Minister at Brussels, in which he expressed a hope that, should
MacMahon lead his soldiers across the boundary, the Belgian authorities
would immediately deprive them of their arms. At night, in his quarters
at Buzancy, King William sanctioned a decisive order to his son and
the Saxon Prince. The troops were to march at dawn, attack the enemy
wherever he could be found on the left and right bank of the Meuse,
in order that he might be crushed up as much as possible between the
river and the Belgian border. The Saxon Prince was to operate beyond
the Meuse, with two Corps; the Prussian Prince on the front and left;
movements designed to bar the road to Montmédy, prevent any attempt to
recross the river, and, eventually, to interpose the German left wing
between the French and Mézières. “Should the adversary enter Belgium
and not be immediately disarmed, he is to be followed at once without
waiting for fresh orders.” These were not the final instructions which
led to the investment of an Army, but they prepared the way towards,
and foreshadowed the accomplishment of that astonishing result.

                    _Confusion in the French Camp._

Marshal MacMahon, perplexed, but not dismayed, by the events of the
30th, remained for some time in doubt. “I do not know what I shall do,”
said the Marshal early in the evening to Ducrot’s aide-de-camp. “In
any case, the Emperor should at once start for Sedan.” At that time
the Emperor was in the camp of Ducrot, who, instructed to protect the
retreat of the Army either by Douzy or by Carignan, that is, towards
Sedan or Montmédy, had divided his Corps between those two places.
At a later period, when darkness had set in, MacMahon, seated at a
bivouac fire, on the heights above Mouzon, sent for General Lebrun, and
directed him to retreat, at once, upon Sedan, not by the highway, which
was crowded with fugitives and wagons, but by cross roads leading upon
Douzy. “We have had a bad time,” said the Marshal, “but the situation
is not hopeless. At the most, the German Army before us cannot exceed
in numbers sixty or seventy thousand men. If they attack us, so much
the better; we shall be able, doubtless, to fling them into the Meuse.”
The Marshal, who never spared himself, and seemed to live without
sleep, rode back to Sedan, and Lebrun, stumbling along devious tracks,
in the darkness, and apparently in dubious military array, fearing
all the time that he might be attacked, entered Douzy at eight in
the morning, and did not reach Bazeilles, his destination, until ten

Meantime Ducrot, embarrassed by the presence of the Emperor, awaited
anxiously, at Carignan, the final orders of MacMahon. He respectfully
urged His Majesty to depart by train for Sedan, but the Emperor
refused—“he wished to be with the Corps which covered the retreat.”
He was astonished and incredulous when the rout before Mouzon was
described. “It is impossible,” he repeatedly exclaimed, “our positions
were magnificent!” In the night he vanished from Carignan; and it was
only some hours after he had gone that Ducrot was informed of his
departure by train. The General then, in concert with Margueritte,
whose cavalry were on the Chiers, resolved to retreat in the morning,
without waiting longer for orders, and to move upon Illy, because he
assumed that MacMahon would certainly direct the Army on Mézières. He
was mistaken. On reaching Villers-Cernay, about four in the afternoon
of the 31st, Ducrot learned that he was to retire upon Sedan, and
not upon Mézières, “whither I have not any intention of going,” said
the Marshal’s despatch. In fact, the two Divisions of the 1st Corps,
left at Douzy on the 30th, had been already ordered to retire on the
Givonne. Lebrun, whom we saw follow in their wake, after his painful
night march, did not destroy the bridge over the Chiers; so that,
when he was passing Francheval, Ducrot actually saw the enemy—they
were Saxon horsemen—issuing from the village, and cutting in upon the
baggage and transport trains.

On that memorable 30th, when the Emperor informed the Empress by
telegram, from Carignan, that there had been an “engagement of no
great importance,” an officer destined to be conspicuous, dropped in
upon the Army; it was De Wimpffen. He has been defined by General
Lebrun, who was with him at St. Cyr, as a man of firm will, and “an
unlimited confidence in his own capacity.” Indeed, he had come to
restore victory. When he passed through Paris, the Comte de Palikao
was good enough to tell him—so he writes, although Palikao “thinks” he
could not have so expressed himself—that MacMahon chimed in too easily
with the suggestions of the Emperor, which was not the fact; that
His Majesty was in a false position, and that he caused the greatest
embarrassment. “Send me to the Army,” said De Wimpffen, “I shall impart
the needed boldness and decision.” So he was sent to supersede De
Failly in command of the 5th Corps, carrying in his pocket a letter
which authorized him to succeed MacMahon in command of the Army, should
any accident befall the Marshal. It was this audacious personage who
supervened on the 30th, and to his horror, found the Army he might have
to guide and govern, falling to pieces under his eyes. He met troops in
flight from Mouzon; they were frightened, famished, and could hardly
be persuaded that the “Prussians” were not at their heels. As evidence
of the reigning disorder, De Wimpffen says that he collected on the
30th, three regiments belonging to the 5th, 7th, and 12th Corps, some
squadrons of De Failly’s cavalry, and several hundreds of men belonging
to the 1st Corps, who obeyed a non-combatant officer. The General led
them during the night to Sedan. A like confusion prevailed on all
sides, as the soldiers, hungry and thoroughly wearied, fell asleep as
they dropped on the ground in their dreary bivouacs.

The Emperor entered Sedan about midnight. The Marshal urged him to
embark afresh in the train, and seek security in Mézières, where
General Vinoy was expected, and where he did, indeed, arrive that night
with the advance guard of one division of the 13th Corps. The Emperor
refused to quit Sedan, but the Prince Imperial had been sent away. The
movement of Vinoy was delayed several hours, because a train running to
Avesnes, and bearing the young Prince, “his baggage, his escort, and
his suite,” barred the way to Mézières.

When morning dawned upon the discomfited Army, Marshal MacMahon had
not ceased to ponder. As he said before the Parliamentary Commission
of Inquiry in 1872, he had no intention of fighting a battle at Sedan,
but he wished to supply the Army afresh with provisions and munitions;
and he spent part of the day in considering what he should do on the
morrow, and in watching from the citadel the march of his foes. There
were, he believed, a million rations in Sedan, but eight hundred
thousand of these were stored in wagons at the station, and as shells
reached them from beyond the Meuse, the station-master sent away the
train to Mézières. With it went a company of engineers, instructed
to blow up the bridge at Donchery; but frightened by the shells, the
driver halted long enough to drop the engineers, and then hastily fled
with the powder and tools. The Marshal did not hear of the mishap until
ten o’clock at night, and when another company of engineers reached the
bridge, they found it in possession of the enemy! Early in the morning,
before that event occurred, Captain des Sesmaisons, carrying a message
from Vinoy, entered Sedan, after having been fired on by a German
battery established near Frenois. He saw the Emperor in the hotel of
the Sub-Prefect, delivered his message, and received a despatch from
His Majesty directing Vinoy to concentrate his troops in Mézières.
Anxious that the Captain should return in safety, the Emperor gave him
a horse, and traced on a map the road he should take, observing that
the Army would retire by that route the next day; that the road would
be open and safe, as it was new, had not been marked on the map, and
was unknown to the enemy. But we learn from the German Staff history,
that this recently opened road, although not laid down on the French,
was duly figured in the German map, a contrast between diligence and
negligence not easily paralleled. The Captain saw MacMahon, who then,
nearly midday, seemed resolved to march on Mézières, and believed that
he could crush any opposition.

At this moment General Douay arrived, and gave a new turn to his
thoughts. Douay had surveyed the position in front of his camp with
an anxious eye, and had noted that, unless reinforced, he could not
hold the cardinal point—the Calvaire d’Illy. He got additional troops
in the end. “But,” said the Marshal, who seemed to share Douay’s
apprehensions, “I do not want to shut myself up in lines; I wish to
be free to manœuvre.” “M. le Maréchal, to-morrow the enemy will not
leave you the time,” was the General’s answer. According to Captain
des Sesmaisons, it was Douay’s comments on the position which made
the Marshal modify his judgment, and think of fighting where he stood
rather than of retreating on Mézières. The Captain rode back to his
General, and carried with him a gloomy account of the condition and
outlook of the Army of Chalons. No troops were sent forth to watch
the Meuse below Sedan and communicate with Vinoy. Later in the day,
an old soldier who lived in the neighbourhood, sought out General
Douay and told him that the enemy was preparing to pass the Meuse at
Donchery—a fact, it might be thought, which could not escape the notice
of the watchers in Sedan—and then it was that the General occupied the
position between Floing and Illy, and began to throw up intrenchments
as cover for men and guns. He had not done so hitherto, because his
soldiers, thoroughly exhausted by incessant marches, sleepless nights,
want of food, and rear-guard combats, needed some rest. Enough has been
said to indicate the lamentable weakness of mind at head-quarters, and
the dire confusion prevailing throughout the limited area between the
Belgian frontier and the Meuse, within which the French soldiers were
now potentially inclosed. It is time to show a different example of the
practice of war.

                    _The Movements of the Germans._

The decision adopted by the Great Head-quarters at Buzancy were, as
usual, anticipated, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Meuse Army,
before the formal orders reached him, had directed the Guard and the
12th Corps to cross the river, by the bridge at Pouilly, constructed
on the 30th, and a new one made at Létanne soon after daybreak on the
31st. The Saxon cavalry commander, indeed, taking with him a squadron
at dawn, rode down the right bank, then shrouded in fog, as far as
Mouzon, entered the town with four lancers, and crossed the bridge to
the faubourg. Thereupon a Prussian battalion instantly passed over and
took possession of the town. This adventurous squadron had actually
captured prisoners and many wagons loaded with provisions. When the
two divisions of cavalry, preceding the infantry advance, rode towards
Douzy and Carignan, they struck the tail of Lebrun’s Corps, and fired
into the distant columns which Ducrot, on the other side of the Chiers,
was leading by the hill roads to Francheval. In fact, by noon the
Guard horsemen were masters of Carignan and such provision stores as
the French had not time to destroy; and the Saxons, passing through
Douzy, had fallen upon a convoy on the right bank. The fire of infantry
forced them back upon the town, but they held that and the unbroken
bridge until the advance guard of the 12th came up in the afternoon
and established themselves in the place. The Prussian Guard meanwhile,
after a long march, had reached, with its leading battalions, Porru
aux Bois and Francheval, the main body halting between Sachy and
Missincourt, and the cavalry remaining in the rear. Thus, the Saxon
Prince’s Army had secured all the bridges over the Chiers and the
important passage at Mouzon, where the 4th Corps stood on both banks of
the Meuse. The outposts formed a chain from the right bank of the river
in front of Douzy, through Francheval to the Belgian frontier, at that
point only nine miles from the Chiers, and sixteen from the Meuse. This
narrow belt of territory was thus barred against French enterprise;
the road to Montmédy and Metz was definitely closed. The Saxon Prince
did not push farther westward, because he knew that the Great Staff
had planned a passage of the Meuse below Sedan for the next day, and,
therefore, he did not wish to alarm the French. Enough had been done
and his troops needed rest, especially the Guard, the whole of which
had marched during the day upwards of thirty miles, and the advance
guards more. No wonder the French were astounded at the “prodigious
marches” made by Germans, whom they had considered to be incapable of
such energy and endurance. Some share of the French disasters must be
attributed to that fatal form of error—contempt for the enemy.

Not less success attended the operations of the Prussian Crown Prince,
whose business it was to secure possession of the left bank of the
Meuse, and, if practicable, bring batteries to bear upon the French
troops. We have already described the effect produced by the horse
artillery batteries established under the protection of the cavalry
at Frenois upon the railway officials who sent off the provision
trains, and upon the drivers who ran away with the powder and tools
required to destroy the bridge at Donchery. Behind the cavalry the
whole Army was soon in motion. The Würtembergers marched from Verrières
to the neighbourhood of Flize, where they became engaged with Vinoy’s
outposts, and induced them to burn the bridge over the Meuse. The 11th
Corps moved upon Donchery, and, during the afternoon, not only secured
the important bridge at that place, but constructed a second. The 5th
Corps stood close in rear of the 11th, and the Second Bavarians halted
at Raucourt. On the extreme left the 6th Corps, covering the rear,
went to Attigny, Semoy, and Amagne; the 5th Division of Cavalry was
at Tourteron, and the 6th at Poix, both scouting over the railway to
Reims, and one breaking the line at Faux.

The 1st Bavarian Corps, which led the infantry advance upon the Meuse,
moved early from Raucourt upon Remilly and Aillicourt. They had only
started at eight o’clock, yet their guns were in position opposite
Bazeilles before the last division of Lebrun’s Corps, marching from
Douzy, could gain the village. The guns opened at very long range, and
Lebrun, who was on the watch, was so impressed that he ordered the
division to turn back and enter the position by Daigny, where there was
a bridge over the Givonne. The French drew out their guns, which led
Von der Tann to reinforce his own, so that there was soon a powerful
line of batteries in action, and some houses in Bazeilles broke out
into flames. Then the Bavarian infantry brigades arrived to support the
advance guard, and the French threw out infantry to annoy the hostile
gunners. Presently a sharp-eyed artilleryman observed that barrels
of powder had been brought down to the railway bridge, apparently
with intent to blow it up. Thereupon General von Stephan directed a
Jäger battalion to frustrate this design; and just as the French were
lowering some barrels under the furthest arch, the Jägers, dashing on
to the bridge, fell upon the working party, drove it off, and poured
the powder into the Meuse. In this daring fashion was the railway
viaduct saved from destruction under the noses of the 12th Corps. Von
der Tann, having the fear of Von Moltke before his eyes, desired to
save the bridge but not engage beyond the stream. The Jägers, however,
who, in the judgment of their comrades, held a post of peril, were
promptly supported, and the forward spirit gaining the upper hand, the
little troop, driving in the French skirmishers, actually held for some
time the fringe of Bazeilles; but not being supported by the General,
who refused to disobey orders and bring on a premature engagement,
the hardy adventurers had to retire with loss, to the right bank. Yet
they secured the bridge from destruction, and to this day, apparently,
General Lebrun cannot understand how it came to pass that MacMahon’s
orders were not executed. The French say that the powder was spoilt and
that no fresh supply could be got from Sedan; but no effort is made to
explain why, when the Bavarians threw a pontoon bridge over the Meuse,
just above the railway crossing, Lebrun’s people did nothing to prevent
it. The truth is that they could not prevent one bridge from being
preserved, and the other from being built.

The gain on the day’s resolute operations, therefore, was the
acquisition of three permanent bridges over the Meuse, two above and
one below Sedan; the seizure of all the passages across the Chiers;
and the concentration of both Armies upon the right and left banks of
the river within striking distance of the French troops packed up in a
narrow area about Sedan. The Crown Prince brought his head-quarters to
Chémery, and the King went through that place on his way to Vendresse.
At Chémery, “a brief conference was held between the Generals Von
Moltke, Von Podbielski, and Von Blumenthal, relative to the general
state of the campaign and the next steps which should be taken.” It was
a notable meeting, and few words, indeed, were required to indicate
the finishing touches of an enterprise, so unexpectedly imposed on
them, and so resolutely carried out by these skilful, far-seeing, and
audacious captains. They had come to the conclusion that the French
had before them only one of two courses—they must either retreat
bodily into Belgium, or sacrifice the greater part of their Army in an
endeavour with the remainder to reach Paris by way of Mézières. There
was a third—to remain and be caught—but a finis so triumphant was not
foreseen by the trio of warriors who met in the village of Chémery.

                      _The Battlefield of Sedan._

The battlefield of Sedan may be described as the space lying within
the angle formed by the Meuse, and its little affluent, the Givonne,
which flows in a southerly direction from the hills near the Belgian
frontier. After passing Bazeilles and its bright meadows, the greater
river meanders towards the north-west, making, a little below Sedan, a
deep loop inclosing the narrow peninsula of Iges on three sides, and
then running westward by Donchery, Dom le Mesnil and Flize to Mézières.
From the northern end of the loop to the Givonne, the ground is a
rugged, undulating upland, attaining its maximum of height a little
south of the Calvaire d’Illy, at a point where the Bois de la Garenne
begins to clothe the steep slopes on the south and east. Lower still
is a deep defile, called the Fond de Givonne, through which, turning
the wood, runs the highway from Sedan to Bouillon, a town on the Semoy
in Belgium. The eastern face of the position, therefore, was the line
of the Givonne, a belt of cottages, gardens, factories and villages;
the southern and south-western was the fortress and the Meuse; the
north-western front was on the hills between Floing and Illy, and the
lowlands on the loop of the Meuse. The interval between Illy and the
Givonne was, at first, neglected because the French held that no troops
could work through the dense forest and broken ground. The issues from
this man-trap were the narrow band of territory between the head of the
Meuse loop and the wooded Belgian frontier; the high road to Bouillon;
the routes eastward to Carignan up the Chiers, and the gate of Torcy on
the south. They were all difficult, and in the nature of defiles which
can only be traversed slowly, even in time of peace, by large bodies of
men, horses, guns and wagons.

Within this remarkable inclosure the French Army sat down on the 31st
of August. The 12th and the 1st Corps, Lebrun’s and Ducrot’s, held the
line of the Givonne, looking east and south-east, because Lebrun had
to guard the Meuse at Bazeilles. The 5th Corps, now under De Wimpffen,
was partly in the “old camp,” close under the fortress, and partly
behind the 7th, which, as we have said, occupied the rolling heights
between Floing and Illy with a strong outpost in St. Menges, at the
head of the Meuse loop on the road which led to Mézières through Vrigne
aux Bois—the road supposed to be unknown to the Germans, because it
was not laid down on the French maps. The cavalry posted in rear of
the 7th were the divisions of Margueritte, Bonnemains and Amiel, while
Michel was behind Ducrot’s left at the village of Givonne. The sun
set, and the night passed, yet Marshal MacMahon expressed no decision.
Believing that the enemy’s numerical strength had been exaggerated,
or that he could break out in any direction when he pleased, or
trusting to fortune and the opportunities which might offer during the
conflict, perhaps imagining that Von Moltke would grant him another
day, the Marshal became the sport of circumstance which had escaped
his control. “The truth is,” he said to the Parliamentary Commission,
“that I did not reckon on fighting a battle on the ground we occupied.
I knew already that we had no provisions, and that the place was
barely supplied with munitions, but I did not yet know on which side I
ought, on the morrow (the 1st) to effect my retreat.” The unfaltering
adversary had no such doubts, and his firm purpose brought on not only
the Battle, but the Investment of Sedan. For the information which
reached the Great Head-quarters during the evening of the 31st, induced
Von Moltke to quicken the operations. He inferred that no attempt would
be made by the French to break out by Carignan; that they might try to
reach Mézières or pass into Belgium; and as he was eager to frustrate
their escape by any route, he instructed the Prussian Crown Prince
to set his Corps in motion during the night. The Prince immediately
issued the needful orders, and directed Von der Tann to attack with
his Bavarians at dawn, without awaiting the arrival of the 12th Corps,
so that Lebrun in Bazeilles being held fast, the attention of the
French might be attracted towards that side. The Saxon Prince, being
duly informed, entered with characteristic spirit and daring into the
plan, and not only determined to be early on the scene of action with
the 12th and the Guard, but to push the latter well forward, so as
to anticipate the French should they endeavour to gain the Belgian
border. Thus a common motive animated the German chiefs who, in taking
firm steps to gain a decisive result, were so well seconded by their
tireless and intrepid soldiers.

                        _The Battle of Sedan._

A thick white mist filled the valley of the Meuse on the morning of
the 1st of September, 1870, so thick that Von der Tann’s Bavarians,
marching towards the railway bridge and the pontoons above it, could
not see many steps ahead, as in two columns they moved at four o’clock
in careful silence through the dense and clammy atmosphere. At that
very time General Lebrun, whose anxieties kept him awake, started up,
and rushing forth, made the first bugler he encountered sound the call,
which roused the wearied troops sleeping on the hills between Bazeilles
and Balan. Yet it would seem that, outside the former village, no
adequate watch was kept, for when the leading Bavarians emerged from
the fog, they gained at once possession of several houses, and even
entered the principal street without firing a shot. It was only when
the enemy were within the place, that the gallant Marine Infantry,
posted in the houses and behind barricades, abruptly arrested the
intruders by opening a smart fire. Then began a sanguinary contest for
the possession of Bazeilles, which raged during many hours; a series
of street fights in which the inhabitants took an active part; combats
ebbing and flowing through and round the market-place, the church,
the larger mansions, and the pretty park of Monvillers, washed and
beautified by the stream of the Givonne. Without a detailed plan, the
incidents of this terrible episode in the battle, are unintelligible.
Vassoigne and Martin des Pallières, before the latter was wounded
on the 31st, had devised a plan of resistance worthy of the gallant
division they led, and it may be said that the defence of Bazeilles
was the most creditable feat of arms performed by the French on that
dreadful day. During the earlier hours, indeed, they kept the upper
hand, driving the Bavarians out of the village on all sides, but
being unable to eject them from two stone houses abutting on the chief
street. The Bavarian batteries beyond the Meuse could not open fire
until six o’clock, because the fog had shut out the view, which even
then was indistinct. About this time General Lebrun, who was quickly on
the scene, had called reinforcements from the 1st and 5th Corps; but
then the Saxons had come up opposite La Moncelle, where one battery,
firing at long range, astonished Lebrun, who saw that the shells from
his own guns fell short, or burst in the air. When the 12th assailed
La Moncelle fresh Bavarian columns had crossed the Meuse, and the
fierce conflict which began in Bazeilles, had extended to the park
of Monvillers, where the French fought steadily. After four hours
strenuous battle, no marked progress had been made in this quarter,
where three Bavarian brigades had fallen almost wholly into skirmishing
order, scattered amidst the houses and lanes of the villages, and some
part of the park on the left bank of the Givonne. Von der Tann bringing
over another brigade and the reserve artillery from the left bank of
the Meuse, called up a division of the 4th Corps which he held back as
a reserve. During the course of this stubborn combat, the Saxon Corps
had seized La Moncelle, and had brought ten batteries to bear on that
village and Daigny, their left flank being prolonged by two Bavarian
batteries. The accuracy of their fire still further astonished General
Lebrun, who confesses that he had never seen such artillery. He and his
staff, six or eight persons, were on an eminence above La Moncelle.
“The shells,” he writes, “cut off one branch after another, from the
tree at the foot of which I stood holding my horse;” and he goes on
to say that in quick succession, one officer was killed, two mortally
wounded, and two men who bore his fanion were hit. He was as much
impressed by the “avalanche de fer” as Marshal Canrobert himself. The
infantry in Bazeilles resisted superbly, but the French General was
none the less amazed by the terrible fire of the German guns. Between
eight and nine the wave of battle was flowing up the Givonne, for the
Guard were now approaching from Villers-Cernay.

               _MacMahon’s Wound and its Consequences._

Meanwhile, inside the French lines, the drama had deepened, for the
Commander-in-Chief had been wounded. Marshal MacMahon has related how,
before daybreak, fearing lest the Germans should have moved troops
over the Meuse at Donchery, he had sent two officers to look into
matters in that quarter, and was awaiting their return when, about five
o’clock, he received a despatch from Lebrun, which made him mount his
ready-saddled horse and ride towards Bazeilles. Arrived there he saw
that the place was well defended, and went to the left intending to
examine the whole line of the Givonne, especially as Margueritte had
sent word that German troops were moving towards Francheval. Halting
above La Moncelle, not far from Lebrun, the Marshal has stated that
while he was gazing intently upon the heights in front of the Bois
Chevalier, and could not see anything, he was struck by the fragment of
a shell. At first he thought that he was only bruised, but that being
obliged to dismount from his horse, which was also wounded, he fainted
for a moment, and then found that his wound was severe. Unable to bear
up any longer he gave over the command of the Army to General Ducrot,
and was carried to Sedan. That officer did not hear of the event until
seven or later; it is impossible to fix precisely the moment when the
Marshal was hit, nor when Ducrot learned his destiny, the evidence is
so contradictory; but sometime between seven and eight Ducrot took
the reins. His first act was to order a retreat on Mézières; Lebrun
begged him to reflect and he did, but soon afterwards became positive.
“There is not a moment to lose,” he cried; and it was arranged that the
retreat should be made in echelons, beginning from the right of the
12th Corps. Neither General knew the real facts of the situation, nor
guessed even how vast were the numbers of the enemy.

The retreat began; it attracted the notice of Napoleon III., who had
ridden on to the field above Balan; and it roused De Wimpffen. He
carried in his pocket an order from Palikao authorizing him to succeed
MacMahon, if the Marshal were killed or disabled. He had kept the
fact secret; after the Marshal fell he still hesitated to use his
letter, but not long. The combat about Bazeilles was well sustained;
the cavalry had been out a little way beyond St. Menges and, as usual,
after a perfunctory search, had “seen nothing,” the attack on the
Givonne even was not fully developed. General de Wimpffen, perhaps from
mixed motives, resolved to interfere and show his old comrades how a
man who really knew war could extricate a French Army from perils in
which it had been placed by weakness and incompetence. He certainly
thought himself a great man, and he roughly stopped the retreat.
Ducrot was indignant, but he obeyed. Lebrun was not more favourably
affected by De Wimpffen’s loud voice and overbearing manner. “I will
not have a movement upon Mézières,” he exclaimed. “If the Army is to
retreat, it shall be on Carignan and not on Mézières.” It should again
be observed that the new Commander-in-Chief was quite as ignorant of
the facts as his predecessors, and even when he wrote his book many
months afterwards had not learned from sources open to all the world
how many men stood at that moment between him and Carignan, nor was he
at all acquainted with the difficult country through which he would
have to move. Ducrot’s plan, which would have placed the Army between
the Meuse below Sedan and the forest on the frontier, leaving a clear
sweep for the guns of the fortress, was far more sensible than that of
his imperious rival. Still, to have a chance of success, it should have
been begun early in the morning, when the 5th and 11th German Corps
were struggling towards the woods; even then it would have probably
failed, but there would have been no capitulation of Sedan. General de
Wimpffen, although he did not know it, was actually playing into the
hand of Von Moltke, who desired above all things that the French Corps
on the Givonne should remain there, because he knew, so great were
his means, so firm his resolution, and so admirable as marchers and
fighters were his soldiers, that the gain of a few hours would enable
him to surround the Army of Chalons.

How far the retreat from the front line was carried, when it was
stayed, and in what degree it injured the defence, cannot possibly be
gleaned from the French narratives, which are all vague and imperfect
in regard to time and place. We know that the Germans did not carry
Bazeilles until nearly eleven o’clock, and then only by dint of turning
movements executed by the Saxons and fresh Bavarian troops from the
direction of La Moncelle. General Ducrot, in his account, places his
stormy interview with De Wimpffen at a little after nine; and he says
that when it ended he spurred in haste towards his divisions—Pellé’s
and L’Hériller’s—and made them descend a part of the positions which
they had climbed a few instants before. Lebrun is equally vague. He
says in one place that when De Wimpffen came up his first brigades
had “partly” crossed the Fond de Givonne, and in another, that the
Marine Infantry had abandoned Bazeilles, which they had not done
before nine o’clock. General de Wimpffen’s recollections are still more
confused and his chronology unintelligible; so that it is impossible
to ascertain precisely what happened beyond the Givonne after Ducrot
ordered and his successor countermanded the retreat. If we take the
German accounts, and try to measure the influence of the much-debated
retreat by the resistance which the assailants encountered, we may
doubt whether it had much greater influence on the issue than that
which grew out of the impaired confidence of the troops in their
antagonistic and jealous commanders. Nevertheless, it is probable that
the swaying to and fro in the French line between Bazeilles and the
village of Givonne, after nine o’clock, did, in some degree, favour
the assailants, and render the acquisition of Bazeilles as well as
the passage of the brook less difficult and bloody. In any case, the
intervention of De Wimpffen can only be regarded as a misfortune for
the gallant French Army, which can hardly find consolation in the fact
that within four-and-twenty hours he was obliged to sign with his name
the capitulation of Sedan.

This needful explanation and comment serves to illustrate the disorder,
the infirmity of purpose, and the rivalries which existed in the French
camp; and we may well agree with Marshal MacMahon when he says that the
blow which obliged him to relinquish the command was a grievous event.
Doubtless he would have taken a decided course had he not been wounded,
and would have marched, if he could, with all his forces, either on
Mézières or Carignan; and besides, he says, there was Belgium near at
hand. He would not have tried to do all three at once. It is only an
Army, well compacted and educated from the bottom to the top which can,
without serious detriment, bear three successive commanders in three

               _Progress of the Battle on the Givonne._

While the French generals, almost in the presence of the helpless
Emperor, were using high words and thwarting each other’s plans, the
German onset had proceeded on all sides with unabated vigour. But,
about nine o’clock, or a little earlier, the French dashed forward so
impetuously that the foremost German troops on the Givonne as far as
Daigny, had to give ground; and the batteries were so vexed by musketry
fire that they also fell back on some points. In fact Lebrun’s left and
Ducrot’s right came on with great spirit, and shook, but did not arrest
long the hostile line. It was not until this period that the French in
Daigny pushed a brigade on to the left bank of the Givonne and occupied
ground which, by the confession of their staff officers, had never been
reconnoitred. They brought over a battery, and General Lartigue rode
with them. The brunt of the onslaught, falling upon the Saxon infantry
immediately in front, these were hard bested; but reinforcements
arriving on either hand closed in upon the enemy’s flanks, and, not
only was he routed from the field, but, being swiftly pursued, his
battery was captured, and the Saxons following the French into Daigny
wrested from them the village, the bridge, and the opposite bank of the
brook. General Lartigue’s horse was killed by a shell, and he narrowly
escaped capture, and was then, or shortly afterwards, wounded. His
chief of the staff, Colonel d’Andigné, hit twice, dropped in a field of
beet-root. Shells from his own side fell near him, and he was grateful
to them because they drove away a pig which came and sniffed at his
wounds. Saxon soldiers gave him wine and lumps of sugar, but one of
them stole his watch and cross; in the end he was tenderly carried to
an ambulance. Some of the Zouaves engaged in this combat about Daigny,
cut off from the main body of fugitives, turned northward, entered the
woods, and reached Paris after traversing the Belgian border.

The Germans owed their quick success at Daigny to the fact that
Lartigue was not supported, and to the fortunate advent, at a critical
moment, of the leading troops of the Second Saxon Division, the whole
of the 12th Corps being now on the ground, engaged or in reserve. It
need scarcely be remarked that the batteries, as usual, preceded the
bulk of the infantry, for it was the Saxon guns which extorted the
admiration of Lebrun. The attack, which had been made from his side,
upon the Saxons and Bavarians about La Moncelle, was equally brilliant
at the outset, for, as we have stated, the German batteries were driven
back by the close musketry, and the French were advancing impetuously,
when a Saxon regiment and part of a Bavarian brigade striking into the
fight, stopped the French and drove them across the rivulet. Then the
artillery returned; soon there were ninety-six guns in action; and the
infantry pressing on, restored the battle. But in Bazeilles itself the
Marines had gained ground, and fresh troops had to be poured into the
village or upon its outskirts to sustain the assailants, who were still
held at bay by the stout defenders. Yet the final stroke at the village
was delivered shortly after this check. The troops in Monvillers
and La Moncelle simultaneously swept forward from the orchards, and
osier-beds, and gardens, until they emerged on the heights beyond, and
showed a front which threatened the road from Bazeilles to Balan.

The French stronghold in the place was a large villa on the north,
which had resisted all day; but now the freshly arrived Bavarians
penetrated into the garden and turned the building on one side; while
the Saxons grouped in the park of Monvillers, cutting a path through
the hedges with their billhooks, appeared on the other. The French
then retreated; but the splendid defence of the whole position had
inflicted a heavy loss on the adversary.

In Bazeilles itself a conflict continued between the armed inhabitants
and the Bavarians, and soon after the whole village was in flames.
Whether it was set on fire purposely or not is to this day a matter
of bitter controversy; but it stands on record that only thirty-nine
lay persons met their deaths, during this long contest, from fire or
sword. It was not the interest of the Germans to create a furnace
across a line of road; and one effect of the conflagration was that the
German pioneers, unable to quench it, were compelled to open a line of
communication with the troops on the fighting line outside the burning

The French retired and reformed between the Fond de Givonne and Balan,
whence their line ran northward, no longer in the valley, but along the
uplands to the Calvaire d’Illy; for the Prussian Guard, issuing from
Villers-Cernay and Francheval, had thrust the French out of the village
of Givonne, and, long before Bazeilles was finally mastered, had
established powerful lines of guns which harassed the French troops in
the Bois de la Garenne. In fact, by nine o’clock, there were six guard
batteries in action, and two hours afterwards the number was increased
to fourteen. Givonne was seized a little later, and infantry support
afforded to the right of the 12th Corps; but Prince Augustus, in
conformity with his instructions, held the main body of the Guard ready
to march towards Fleigneux, effect a junction with the Third Army, and
bar the road to Bouillon. From an eminence a little east of Givonne and
just south of La Viré farm, whereon eighteen guns stood, the Prince,
looking westward about nine o’clock, saw the smoke of that combat
near St. Menges, which he knew marked the formidable intervention of
the 5th and 11th Corps, whose operations in the forenoon must now be
succinctly described.

                      _The March on St. Menges._

It will be remembered that, on receiving a pressing order from Von
Moltke, the Prussian Crown Prince directed the two Corps just named and
the Würtemberg division to move out in the dark and occupy the Mézières
road in order to intercept the French should they endeavour to retire
upon that town. They promptly obeyed. The Würtembergers crossed the
Meuse on a bridge of their own making, at Dom le Mesnil; the 5th and
11th at Donchery by the permanent bridge and two improvised passages.
The object of the two Corps was to occupy the nearest villages on the
Mézières road, Vrigne aux Bois and Vivier au Court, both which were
attained about half-past seven, when the contest was fierce on the
Givonne. Here the generals commanding, Von Kirchbach and Von Gersdorf,
received that despatch from the Prussian Crown Prince which directed
them to march on St. Menges and Fleigneux, for at head-quarters
a strong hope had now arisen that the Army of Chalons could be
surrounded. The 11th moved on the right, next the Meuse, the 5th on
the left; but the roads were few between the river and the forest—one
column lost its way, and both Corps at the head of the Loop had to use
the same road. No French scouts were out along this important line of
communication. Margueritte’s horsemen had patrolled a short distance,
about six, but neither saw nor heard of the approaching columns; nor
until the German Hussars, leading the erring column ascending the Meuse
from Montimont, had got close to St. Menges, were they discovered by a
French patrol sent out at the suggestion of De Wimpffen.

                   _The 11th and 5th Corps engage._

The shots exchanged by the hostile cavaliers aroused the French
infantry in St. Menges; but they offered no resistance when the nearest
German battalion attacked the village, which was immediately occupied.
Two companies, prolonging the movement, effected a lodgment in Floing
and could not be expelled; while three batteries, escorted by the
Hussars, dashed upon the ridge south of St. Menges, partly protected
by a copse, and opened fire on the French. It was this initial combat
which attracted the notice of Prince Augustus of Würtemberg, who looked
with interest, from his hill above the Givonne, upon the white battle
smoke which curled up beyond the heights of Illy. Shortly afterwards
seven additional batteries issued from the defile and formed in
succession on the hill—the same which had filled General Douay with
anxiety the day before—and some infantry battalions followed; but the
body of the 11th Corps was only just clearing the pass, and the 5th
was still behind. In order to protect the batteries, infantry supports
were advanced on either flank and in front towards the Illy brook.
General Margueritte, on the Calvaire d’Illy had watched this unwelcomed
development of artillery. Seeing the infantry spread out below, he
thought that his horse might ride them down and then disable the line
of batteries, which seemed to be without adequate support. Accordingly,
by his order, General de Galliffet led forth three regiments of
Chasseurs d’Afrique and two squadrons of Lancers against the intrusive
foot and audacious gunners. But he never got near the batteries.
Swooping down the slope upon the infantry below him, his men and horses
soon fell fast, and although they swept through the skirmishers, they
were crushed by the fire of the supports and the guns on the hill and
the squads of infantry on either side. They endeavoured to ride in
upon the flanks, but their bravery was displayed in vain, for nothing
could live under the fire which smote them, and they rode back,
frustrated, to the shelter of their own lines. The cavalry outburst
had been repelled by a few companies of foot on an open hill-side. So
puissant is the breech-loader in the hands of cool infantry soldiers.
But the French foot took up the game, and the chassepot, deftly plied,
forced the forward German skirmishers to fall back on the villages and

Gradually the two Corps arrived on the scene. Before eleven o’clock
the artillery of the 5th, preceding its infantry, went into line on a
second ridge to the westward, and soon twenty-four batteries—that is,
144 guns—were pouring an “avalanche de fer” into the French position,
and crossing their fire with that of the Guard batteries, which
showered their shells into the right rear of Douay’s men from the
heights beyond the Givonne. About this time, also, as reinforcements
came up to Fleigneux, the companies there moved westward towards Olly;
captured, on their way, eight guns, many horses, much munition, and
above a hundred officers and men, who seemed intent on escaping over
the frontier, and finally entered Olly, where soon afterwards they
were gratified by the arrival of a squadron of Prussian Hussars of
the Guard. Thus was the circle completed which placed the two Armies
in communication. In front of the right wing the two companies which
at the outset obtained a lodgment in Floing, were at length supported
and relieved. As the infantry from the wooded region north of the
Meuse Loop arrived, they took the place of the battalions near the
guns, and these then went forward upon Floing, one after the other,
and by degrees got possession of the village. But the French delivered
a counterstroke so well pushed that the defenders of Floing could
not keep them back, and they were only thrust out by the timely
intervention of three fresh battalions from St. Menges. The French
retired towards the heights of Cazal, and for some time stopped the
further advance of their foes.

The battle was now practically won; for the Germans held Balan as well
as Bazeilles, supported by one-half the 2nd Bavarian Corps brought up
to aid the 1st; one division of the 4th Corps was deep in the fight,
and the other in reserve, close at hand; the line of the Givonne, from
end to end, was occupied on both banks; the Guard Cavalry, after vainly
trying to charge up the Calvaire d’Illy, were behind the 5th Corps;
south of the Meuse a Bavarian division faced the fortress; and to the
west the Würtembergers interposed between Vinoy’s troops in Mézières
and Sedan. Above all, a little after one o’clock, there were no fewer
than 426 guns hailing shells upon the unfortunate French, who were
almost piled one upon another in an area which did not measure two
miles either in depth or breadth. It stands on record that there were
in full action twenty-six batteries on the North, twenty-four on the
East, ten to the West of La Moncelle, and eleven on the South between
Wadelincourt and Villette—an array of force enough to crush out all
resistance; but the conflict still continued, for no one had authority
sufficient to stop the awful carnage.

                  _The Condition of the French Army._

The main interest of the drama henceforth centres in the despairing
efforts of the French to avert the catastrophe of Sedan. Early in
the morning the Emperor Napoleon mounted his horse and rode out with
his own staff to witness the battle. On his way towards Bazeilles he
met and spoke to the wounded Marshal, who was being carried to the
hospital in Sedan. Then the Emperor rode towards the hills above La
Moncelle, and for several hours he lingered on the field, well under
fire, for two officers were wounded near him; but he had no influence
whatever on the battle. Soon after taking command, De Wimpffen, riding
out of the Fond de Givonne, came plump upon Napoleon as he watched
the fight near Balan. “All goes well, Sire,” said the General; “we
are gaining ground;” and when His Majesty remarked that the left,
meaning the front towards St. Menges, was threatened, the General
replied, “We shall first pitch the Bavarians into the Meuse, and then,
with all our forces, fall upon the new foe.” They parted, the Emperor
returning to Sedan, whence he did not emerge again that day, and the
General careering towards the fight. Then followed a sharp dispute
between De Wimpffen and Ducrot, in the presence of Lebrun, ending in
the order to stop the so-called retreat which had scarcely begun. It
is impossible to reconcile the conflicting accounts of these officers;
but De Wimpffen’s own words show that, at the time, he did not attach
great importance to the attack on Douay, for to that General he wrote,
“I believe in a demonstration upon your Corps, especially designed
to hinder you from sending help to the 1st and 12th Corps,” and he
asked him to aid Lebrun. Then he went himself to the position held by
Douay, in order to expedite the despatch of reinforcements. “Come and
see for yourself,” said Douay, on reaching the heights. “I saw quite
a hostile Army extending afar,” writes De Wimpffen, “and a formidable
artillery—the big batteries of the 5th and 11th Corps—firing with
a precision which, under other circumstances,” he adds, “I should
have been the first to admire.” Prince Bibesco says that De Wimpffen
promised to send troops from the 1st Corps to occupy the Calvaire
d’Illy, and then went away. As he was riding back, in that state of
emotion which the French describe by the phrase, “le cœur navré,” he
encountered Ducrot. “The events which I predicted,” said the latter,
“have happened sooner than I expected. The enemy is attacking the
Calvaire d’Illy. Douay is greatly shaken. Moments are precious. Hurry
up reinforcements if you would keep that position.” “Well,” retorted
De Wimpffen, still believing that he had only Bavarians to deal with,
“look after that yourself. Collect what troops you can and hold the
ground while I attend to the 12th Corps.” Thereupon Ducrot ordered
up guns and infantry; while then, or shortly afterwards, De Wimpffen
called for troops from Douay, who, believing the Calvaire was or would
be occupied by Ducrot’s people, sent off three brigades, and put his
last division in front line. Apparently the cross currents of wandering
battalions met in the wood of Garenne; and it is not easy to see how
any advantages were obtained by the shifting to and fro which went on.
Ducrot was anxious to defend the Illy plateau; De Wimpffen desired to
break out towards Carignan. He fondled the idea at one o’clock, when
neither object could possibly be attained; but if there had been a
chance left, the conflict between the two Generals would have sufficed
to destroy it.

That “Army” which De Wimpffen saw from the north-western heights came
on in irresistible waves. The French infantry could not endure the
thick and ceaseless hail of shells from the terrible batteries. The
French artillery, brave and devoted, vainly went into action, for the
converging fire from the hostile hills blew up the tumbrils, sometimes
two at once, killed and wounded the gunners, and swept away the horses.
Ducrot’s reinforcements, despite his forward bearing and animated
language, melted away into the woods, and the last battalions and the
last two batteries led up by Douay were speedily forced to retire. The
Germans, already in the village of Illy, advanced to the Calvaire,
while the troops of the 11th Corps sallied out of Floing, deployed on
both sides, and soon the interval between the two villages was full of
hostile troops. General Ducrot pictures himself, and doubtless truly,
as using every effort by word and example to rally and hold fast the
foot; but they could not be held; they slipped off and vanished under
the trees. At this time the only strong body of French was Liébert’s
division above the terraced hill which leads up to Cazal, and the
cavalry of Margueritte and Bonnemains lurking in the hollows and under
the cover of trees. To these men Ducrot appealed, and his appeal was
nobly answered.

                     _The French Cavalry Charge._

General Margueritte commanded five regiments of horse, principally
Chasseurs d’Afrique. At the request of Ducrot he promptly moved out
from cover, and prepared to charge; but wishing to reconnoitre the
ground, he rode in advance, and was hit in the head by a bullet which
traversed his face. Mortally wounded, he gave the command to De
Galliffet, and rode off, supported by two men, and grasping the saddle
with both hands, “the star of his arm,” as Colonel Bonie poetically
calls him. Then De Galliffet performed his task, and rode straight
into the intrusive enemy. For half an hour, on the hill sides south
of Floing, and even the lowlands bordering the Meuse, the dashing
French horsemen dauntlessly struck at their foes. The German infantry
scattered in lines of skirmishers, were just attaining the crest of
the eminence, when the cavalry dashed upon them. They broke through
the skirmishers, but fell in heaps under the fire of the compact
bodies of supports. Failing to crush a front, they essayed the flanks
and even the rear, and nothing dismayed, sought again and again to
ride over the stubborn adversary, who, relying on his rifle, would not
budge. The more distant infantry and the guns, when occasion served,
smote these devoted cavaliers. Sometimes the Germans met them in line,
at others they formed groups, or squares as the French call them, and
occasionally they fought back to back. One body of horse rode into a
battery, and was only repelled by the fire of a company of infantry.
Another dashed through a village on the banks of the river, and
although they were harried by infantry, and turned aside and followed
by some Prussian hussars, several rode far down the river, and created
some disorder in the German trains. There were many charges, all driven
home as far at least as the infantry fire would permit, more than one
carrying the furious riders up to the outskirts of Floing. But, in
the end, the unequal contests everywhere had the same result—bloody
defeat for the horseman, who matched himself, his lance or sword and
steed against the breech-loader held by steady hands in front of keen
eyes. Yet it is not surprising that these daring charges excited the
ungrudging admiration and deep sympathy of friend and foe. They did not
arrest the march of the German infantry, or turn the tide of battle, or
even infuse new courage into the French soldiers, who were exposed to
trials which few, if any, troops could bear. But they showed, plainly
enough, that the “furia francese” survived in the cavalry of France,
and that, if the mounted men refused or disdained to perform more
useful work by scouting afar and covering the front of armies, they
could still charge with unabated heroism on the field of battle. They
were dispersed, and they left behind heaps of dead and dying—one-half
their strength resting on the scene of their daring. Three Generals,
Margueritte, Girard and Tilliard, were killed, and Salignac-Fenelon
was wounded. The Germans say that their own losses were small, but
that among the Jägers a comparatively large number of men were wounded
by the sword. These notable exploits were done about two o’clock or
a little later; and, with slight exceptions, they mark the end of
desperately offensive resistance on the part of the French.

During the next hour the Germans pressed their adversaries close up to
Sedan. “When the cavalry had been driven back in disorder,” says Ducrot
in his sweeping style, “the last bodies of infantry which had stood
firm broke and fled. Then on the right and left, with loud hurrahs,
which mingled with the roar of cannon and musketry, the Prussian lines
advanced.” The statement is too superlative. The cavalry in squads,
wandered, no doubt, from ravine to ravine, seeking an asylum, or tried
to enter the fortress. The remains of several brigades were piled up
in the wood of Garenne, and exposed to an incessant shell fire. But
Liébert’s division stoutly defended Cazal, and gave back, foot by foot,
until they also were under the ramparts. Towards four o’clock the
converging German columns, despite frantic onsets from bands of French
infantry, especially on the Givonne front, had thrust these over the
deep hollow way, and the victors were only halted when they came within
range of the garrison guns.

                _General de Wimpffen’s Counterstroke._

Throughout the battle General de Wimpffen cherished the idea that it
would be feasible to crush “the Bavarians” and retreat on Carignan. At
one o’clock he sent a despatch to General Douay, telling the General
to cover his retreat in that direction. Douay received it an hour
afterwards, and he then replied that “with only three brigades, without
artillery, and almost without munitions,” the utmost he could do would
be to retreat in order from the field. That was near the moment when
Liébert began to fall back, fighting stiffly, from Cazal. At a quarter
past one De Wimpffen wrote a letter to the Emperor saying that “rather
than be made prisoner in Sedan,” he would force the line in his front.
“Let your Majesty,” he said, “place himself in the midst of his troops;
they will hold themselves bound in honour to fray out a passage.” His
Majesty took no notice of this appeal, and De Wimpffen waited in vain
for a reply; but he spent the time in an endeavour to dash in the
barrier in his front, direct an attack on the Givonne, which failed;
and to organize an onset on Balan, which partly succeeded. He went
into Sedan and brought out troops, and gathered up all he could from
the errant fragments of a broken Army. With these he fell fiercely and
unexpectedly upon the Bavarians in Balan; refused to suspend the fight
when ordered by the Emperor to open negotiations with the enemy; and by
degrees became master of all the village except one house. But he could
not emerge and continue his onslaught, for the hostile artillery began
to play on the village; reinforcements were brought up, arrangements
were made to frustrate the ulterior aim of the French and recover the
lost ground. Against a resolute advance the infantry led by De Wimpffen
could not stand, and possession of the village was regained just as the
white flag went up over the nearest gate of Sedan. Suddenly the firing
ceased on both sides. Although respectfully described by the Germans,
General de Wimpffen’s last charge is scoffed at by Ducrot and Lebrun,
whom he had enraged by declaring both guilty of disobedience. Lebrun,
who was an eye-witness as well as a gallant actor in the forlorn hope,
says that they had not gone a quarter of a mile before the column
broke and took refuge in the nearest houses. Looking back, De Wimpffen
is reported by his comrade to have said, “I see we are not followed
and that there is nothing more to do. Order the troops to retreat
on Sedan.” The battle had, at length, come to an end. The German
infantry, both near Cazal and Balan were within a short distance of
the fortifications; in the centre they stood south of the Warren Wood;
to the eastward long lines of guns crowned the heights on both banks
of the Givonne; on the south, the gate of Torcy was beset, and behind
all the foremost lines were ample reserves, horse as well as foot,
which had never fired a shot. The number of batteries had increased
during the afternoon, for the Würtemberg artillery was called over the
Meuse and set in array at the bend of the river above Donchery. Even
the high-tempered, if imperious, De Wimpffen was obliged to admit that
through this dread circle, neither for him nor any other, was there
an outlet. The agony had been prolonged, but enough had been done to
satisfy the “honour” of the most obstinate and punctilious of generals.
The wearied, wasted, famished, and unnerved French troops were thankful
for the impressive stillness and unwonted rest which came abruptly with
the declining sun, even though it set the seal on a horrible disaster.

                    _The Emperor and his Generals._

Had Napoleon III. retained that Imperial authority which he had been
supposed to possess, the slaughter might have been stayed some hours
before. For early in the afternoon he became convinced that the Army
could not be extricated, and that the time had come when it would
be well to treat. His experiences, as a superfluous attendant on the
battle-field, were dolorous. The first object which met his gaze was
the wounded Marshal. The depressing incident may have called up visions
of Italian triumphs; and, reflecting on the painful contrast, he may
have remembered what he said after returning from the sanguinary
victory of Solferino—that no more would he willingly lead great Armies
to war; for the sight of its horrors had touched the chord of sympathy
with human suffering which had always readily vibrated in his heart.
During several hours he watched the tempest lower and break in fury;
he saw and felt its effects, for two officers were shot at his side;
wherever he looked the clouds of encircling battle smoke rose in the
clear sunshine; and when he rode back into Sedan the terrible shells
were bursting in the ditches, and even on the bridge which he traversed
to gain his quarters. As the day wore on his gloomy meditations took a
more definite shape; he wished to stop the conflict, and he seems to
have thought first that an armistice might be obtained, and then that
the King of Prussia, if personally besought, would grant the Army easy
terms; for the idea of a capitulation had grown up and hardened in his

At his instigation, no officer has come forward to claim the honour,
some one hoisted a white flag. As soon as he heard of it, General
Faure, Marshal MacMahon’s Chief of the Staff, ascended the citadel
and cut down a signal so irritating to his feelings; but no one told
the Emperor that his solitary, independent, and Imperial action,
since he joined the Army of Chalons as a fugitive, had been thus
irreverently contemned. “Why does this useless struggle still go on?”
he said to General Lebrun, who entered his presence some time before
three o’clock. “Too much blood has been shed. An hour ago I directed
the white flag to be hoisted in order to demand an armistice.”
The General politely explained that other forms were necessary—the
Commander-in-Chief must sign a letter and send a proper officer, a
trumpeter, and a man bearing a white flag, to the chief of the enemy.
Lebrun drew out such a form, and started forth. Faure, who had just
pulled down the white flag, would not look at it; De Wimpffen, seeing
Lebrun ride up followed by a horseman who carried a rag on a pole,
shouted out, “I will not have a capitulation; drop that flag; I shall
go on fighting;” and then ensued their adventures about Balan, which
have been described. When Lebrun had gone, Ducrot, and subsequently
Douay, visited the Emperor. Ducrot found the interior of the fortress
in a state which he qualifies as “indescribable.” “The streets, the
squares, the gates were choked up with carts, carriages, guns, the
impedimenta and debris of a routed Army. Bands of soldiers, without
arms or knapsacks, streamed in every moment, and hurried into the
houses and churches. At the gates many were trodden to death.” Those
who preserved some remains of vigour exhaled their wrath in curses,
and shouted “We have been betrayed, sold by traitors and cowards.” The
Emperor still wondered why the action went on, and rejected Ducrot’s
suggestion of a sortie at night as futile. He wished to stop the
slaughter; but he could not prevail on Ducrot to sign any letter. Douay
at first appeared disposed to accept the burden, but De Failly or
Lebrun induced him to revoke his consent by remarking that it entailed
the duty of fixing his name to a capitulation. General de Wimpffen sent
in his resignation, which, as the Emperor could not induce one of the
other generals to take his place, was absolutely refused. The shells
were bursting in the garden of the Sub-Prefecture, in the hospitals,
the streets, and among the houses, some of which were set on fire. In
these dire straits the Emperor at length resolved that the white flag
should be again unfurled, and should, this time, remain aloft in the
sunshine. Meantime, as evident signs indicating a desire to negotiate
had appeared at various points, and as the white flag surmounted
the citadel, the King directed Colonel Bronsart von Schellendorf
and Captain von Winterfeld to summon the place to capitulate. When
Bronsart intimated to the Commandant of Torcy that he bore a summons
to the Commander-in-Chief, he was conducted to the Sub-Prefecture,
“where,” says the official narrative, “he found himself face to face
with the Emperor Napoleon, whose presence in Sedan until that moment
had been unknown at the German head-quarters.” The arrival of the
Prussian officer seems to have occurred just as the Emperor finished
writing a letter to the King destined to become famous. But he answered
Bronsart’s request that an officer fully empowered to treat should be
sent to the German head-quarters, by remarking that General de Wimpffen
commanded the Army. Thereupon, Colonel Bronsart departed, bearing a
weighty piece of intelligence indeed, but no effective reply; and soon
afterwards General Reille, intrusted with the Imperial letter, rode
out of the gate of Torcy and ascended the hill whence the King had
witnessed the battle.

_King William and his Warriors._

An eminence, selected by the Staff because it commanded an extensive
view, rises a little south of Frenois—the site has been marked on the
map with a small pyramid—and upon this, about seven o’clock, just
as the fog was lifting, King William took his stand. When the mists
vanished, the sun poured his dazzling splendour over the landscape,
and the air was so lucid that everything could be seen distinctly
through a powerful field-glass. “The sun shone out in full power,”
says Prince Bibesco. “The sun was exceedingly powerful,” writes Dr.
Russell. “The day had become so clear”—he is writing of the same period
as the Prince—“that through a good glass the movements of individual
men were plainly discernible.” And, a little earlier, he says, “on the
hills, through wood and garden,” he was looking towards the Givonne,
“and in the valleys, bayonets glistened, and arms twinkled and flashed
like a streamlet in moonlight.” And so it continued to the end. “The
hills of the battlefield,” writes Dr. Moritz Busch, “the gorge in
its midst, the villages, the houses and the towers of the fortress,
the suburb of Torcy, the ruined [railway] bridge to the left in the
distance, shone bright in the evening glow, and their details became
clearer every minute, as if one were looking through stronger and
stronger spectacles.” Through such a rich and transparent atmosphere
the King gazed from his height upon the city wherein Turenne was born,
in September, 1611, and on the battle which has made the little town
on the Meuse, which Vauban fortified, still more memorable. A glimpse
of the group on the hill is fortunately afforded by Dr. Russell, whose
keen eyes on a battlefield seem to overlook nothing. “Of the King, who
was dressed in his ordinary uniform, tightly buttoned and strapped,” it
is noted that he “spoke but little, pulled his moustache frequently,
and addressed a word to Von Moltke, Roon, or Podbielski,” who looked
frequently through a large telescope mounted on a tripod. “Moltke,” he
goes on, and the touch is characteristic, “when not looking through
the glass or at the map, stood in a curious musing attitude, with his
right hand to the side of his face, the elbow resting on the left
hand crossed towards his hip.” A picture of Von Moltke, which, taken
with what another observer calls his “refined and wrinkled face,”
deserves to live in the memory. Count Bismarck, we are told, “in his
white cuirassier flat cap with the yellow band and uniform, stood
rather apart, smoking a good deal, and chatting occasionally with a
short, thick-set, soldierly-looking man in the undress uniform of a
United States’ Lieutenant-General.” It was Sheridan. And near these
were many less famous personages, but representative of “all Germany,”
as one writer puts it. On another hill a little further west, whither
Dr. Russell transferred himself, was a second and notable group, which
he sketches. “The Crown Prince with his arms folded, and his flat
cap, uniform frock, and jack boots; Blumenthal so spruce and trim;
half-a-dozen princes and many aides-de-camp” were all sharply and
well-defined on the sky-line. Thus these two groups, “from morn to
dewy eve,” looked down, on, and into a scene which nature and man had
combined to make at once beautiful and sublime.

It was towards the King’s hill that General Reille turned when he rode
out of the Torcy gate. Walking his horse up the steep, he dismounted,
and taking off his cap, presented a letter to his Majesty. King
William, breaking the Imperial seal, read these phrases, which, if
somewhat dramatic, are striking in their brevity:—[1]

Monsieur mon Frère,

N’ayant pu mourir au milieu de mes troupes, il ne me reste qu’ à
remettre mon epée entre les mains de Votre Majesté.

Je suis de Votre Majesté,

le bon Frère,

NAPOLÉON. Sédan, le 1^{er} Septembre, 1870.

Only one half hour earlier had Colonel Bronsart brought the startling
information that the Emperor was in Sedan! The King conferred with
his son, who had been hastily summoned, and with others of his trusty
servants, all deeply moved by complex emotions at the grandeur of their
victory. What should be done? The Emperor spoke for himself only, and
his surrender would not settle the great issue. It was necessary to
obtain something definite, and the result of a short conference was
that Count Hatzfeldt, instructed by the Chancellor, retired to draft a
reply. “After some minutes he brought it,” writes Dr. Busch, “and the
King wrote it out, sitting on one chair, while the seat of a second was
held up by Major von Alten, who knelt on one knee and supported the
chair on the other.” The King’s letter, brief and business-like, began
and ended with the customary royal forms, and ran as follows:

“Regretting the circumstances in which we meet, I accept your Majesty’s
sword, and beg that you will be good enough to name an officer
furnished with full powers to treat for the capitulation of the Army
which has fought so bravely under your orders. On my side I have
designated General von Moltke for that purpose.”

General Reille returned to his master, and as he rode down the hill
the astounding purport of his visit flew from lip to lip through the
exulting Army which now hoped that, after this colossal success, the
days of ceaseless marching and fighting would soon end. As a contrast
to this natural outburst of joy and hope we may note the provident
Moltke, who was always resolved to “mak siker.” His general order,
issued at once, suspending hostilities during the night, declared that
they would begin again in the morning should the negotiations produce
no result. In that case, he said, the signal for battle would be the
reopening of fire by the batteries on the heights east of Frénois. The
return of peace, so fervently desired by the Army, was still far off in
the distance when the tired victors bivouacked in quiet, and dreamed of
home through the short summer night.

[Footnote 1: “Not having been able to die in the midst of my troops,
nothing remains for me but to place my sword in the hands of your

                 _How the Generals Rated each other._

While General Reille, who performed his part with so much modesty and
dignity, rode back over the Meuse, the Emperor still awaited, in the
Sub-Prefecture, the advent of General de Wimpffen, who was fretting
and fuming at the Golden Cross within the walls. According to his own
confession he had become convinced that the refusal of his sovereign to
head a sally from Balan had delivered over the Army to the mercy of the
Germans, and violent despair had taken possession of his soul. For had
not the Comte de Palikao sent him to overbear Napoleon III. and the set
who surrounded him, and had he not failed to bend the monarch to his
will? Twice, he repeats, with pride, “I obstinately refused to obey”
the Emperor’s invitation to treat with the enemy; and because Napoleon
III. had authoritatively interfered with his command he sent in that
letter of resignation which the Emperor refused to accept. At first he
seemed inclined to resist as well as resent the conduct of his master,
who had presumed to consult others and, by hoisting the white flag, to
take, as the General haughtily says, “a decision contrary to my will.”
Let the Emperor sign the capitulation. Such were the first thoughts
of a man whose temper was imperious, but whose better nature was not
insensible to reason. He quelled his wrath and threw off his despair,
moved, as he says, by the feeling that in defending the interests of
the Army he would be rendering a last service to his brave companions
in arms, and to his country. So he went from the Golden Cross to the
Sub-Prefecture. Still angry, he loudly asserted as soon as he entered
the room that he had been vanquished in battle because, addressing the
Emperor, “your Generals refused to obey me.” Thereupon Ducrot started
up, exclaiming, “Do you mean me? Your orders were only too well obeyed,
and your mad presumption has brought on this frightful disaster.” “If I
am incapable,” retorted De Wimpffen, “all the more reason why I should
not retain the command.” “You took it this morning,” shouted Ducrot,
also a violent man, “when you thought it would bring honour and profit.
You cannot lay it down now. You alone must bear (endosser) the shame of
the capitulation.” “Le General Ducrot était très exalté,” he says in
his narrative, and he calls on his brother officers who were present
to testify that he used these brave words, which, in substance, appear
in De Wimpffen’s account; but the latter adds that he threw back the
accusation, saying, “I took the command to evade a defeat which your
movement would have precipitated;” and that he requested General Ducrot
to leave the room, as he had not come to confer with him! What the
quiet and well-mannered Emperor thought of his two fiery and blustering
Generals is nowhere stated. The calm language in the pamphlet
attributed to Napoleon III., which shows, nevertheless, how deeply he
was vexed by De Wimpffen’s selfish wish to shirk his responsibilities
at such a moment, takes no note of the quarrel, and simply tells us how
“the General understood that, having commanded during the battle, his
duty obliged him not to desert his post in circumstances so critical.”
Thus, when General Reille returned with King William’s letter, he found
De Wimpffen in a reasonable frame of mind and ready to perform, with
courage and address, the hard task of obtaining the best terms he could
for the French Army from the placidly stern Von Moltke, in whose heart
there were no soft places when business had to be done.

                   _The Generals Meet at Donchery._

Late on the evening of September 1st a momentous session was held
in Donchery, the little town which commands a bridge over the Meuse
below Sedan. On one side of a square table covered with red baize sat
General von Moltke, having on his right hand the Quartermaster-General
von Podbielski, according to one account, and Von Blumenthal according
to another, and behind them several officers, while Count von
Nostitz stood near the hearth to take notes. Opposite to Von Moltke
sat De Wimpffen alone; while in rear, “almost in the shade,” were
General Faure, Count Castelnau, and other Frenchmen, among whom was
a Cuirassier Captain d’Orcet, who had observant eyes and a retentive
memory. Then there ensued a brief silence, for Von Moltke looked
straight before him and said nothing, while De Wimpffen, oppressed by
the number present, hesitated to engage in a debate “with the two men
admitted to be the most capable of our age, each in his kind.” But he
soon plucked up courage, and frankly accepted the conditions of the
combat. What terms, he asked, would the King of Prussia grant to a
valiant Army which, could he have had his will, would have continued
to fight? “They are very simple,” answered Von Moltke. “The entire
Army, with arms and baggage, must surrender as prisoners of war.” “Very
hard,” replied the Frenchman. “We merit better treatment. Could you not
be satisfied with the fortress and the artillery, and allow the Army to
retire with arms, flags and baggage, on condition of serving no more
against Germany during the war?” No. “Moltke,” said Bismarck recounting
the interview, “coldly persisted in his demand,” or as the attentive
D’Orcet puts it, “Von Moltke was pitiless.” Then De Wimpffen tried to
soften his grim adversary by painting his own position. He had just
come from the depths of the African desert; he had an irreproachable
military reputation; he had taken command in the midst of a battle, and
found himself obliged to set his name to a disastrous capitulation.
“Can you not,” he said, “sympathize with an officer in such a plight,
and soften, for me, the bitterness of my situation by granting more
honourable conditions?” He painted in moving terms his own sad case,
and described what he might have done; but seeing that his personal
pleadings were unheeded, he took a tone of defiance, less likely to
prevail. “If you will not give better terms,” he went on, “I shall
appeal to the honour of the Army, and break out, or, at least, defend
Sedan.” Then the German General struck in with emphasis, “I regret that
I cannot do what you ask,” he said; “but as to making a sortie, that
is just as impossible as the defence of Sedan. You have some excellent
troops, but the greater part of your infantry is demoralized. To-day,
during the battle, we captured more than twenty thousand unwounded
prisoners. You have only eighty thousand men left. My troops and guns
around the town would smash yours before they could make a movement;
and as to defending Sedan, you have not provisions for eight-and-forty
hours, nor ammunition which would suffice for that period.” Then, says
De Wimpffen, he entered into details respecting our situation, which,
“unfortunately, were too true,” and he offered to permit an officer to
verify his statements, an offer which the Frenchman did not then accept.

Beaten off the military ground, De Wimpffen sought refuge in politics.
“It is your interest, from a political standpoint, to grant us
honourable conditions,” he said. “France is generous and chivalric,
responsive to generosity, and grateful for consideration. A peace,
based on conditions which would flatter the amour-propre of the Army,
and diminish the bitterness of defeat, would be durable; whereas
rigorous measures would awaken bad passions, and, perhaps, bring on an
endless war between France and Prussia.” The new ground broken called
up Bismarck, “because the matter seemed to belong to my province,”
he observed when telling the story; and he was very outspoken as
usual. “I said to him that we might build on the gratitude of a
prince, but certainly not on the gratitude of a people—least of all
on the gratitude of the French. That in France neither institutions
nor circumstances were enduring; that governments and dynasties were
constantly changing, and the one need not carry out what the other had
bound itself to do. That if the Emperor had been firm on his throne,
his gratitude for our granting good conditions might have been counted
upon; but that as things stood it would be folly if we did not make
full use of our success. That the French were a nation full of envy
and jealousy, that they had been much mortified by our success at
Königgratz, and could not forgive it, though it in nowise damaged them.
How, then, should any magnanimity on our side move them not to bear
us a grudge for Sedan.” This Wimpffen would not admit. “France,” he
said, “had much changed latterly; it had learned under the Empire to
think more of the interests of peace than of the glory of war. France
was ready to proclaim the fraternity of nations; and more of the same
kind.” Captain d’Orcet reports that, in addition, Bismarck denied that
France had changed, and that to curb her mania for glory, to punish
her pride, her aggressive and ambitious character, it was imperative
that there should be a glacis between France and Germany. “We must have
territory, fortresses and frontiers which will shelter us for ever
from an attack on her part.” Further remonstrances from De Wimpffen
only drew down fresh showers of rough speech very trying to bear, and
when Bismarck said “We cannot change our conditions,” De Wimpffen
exclaimed, “Very well; it is equally impossible for me to sign such a
capitulation, and we shall renew the battle.”

Here Count Castelnau interposed meekly to say, on behalf of the
Emperor, that he had surrendered, personally, in the hope that his
self-sacrifice would induce the King to grant the Army honourable
terms. “Is that all?” Bismarck inquired. “Yes,” said the Frenchman.
“But what is the sword surrendered,” asked the Chancellor; “is it
his own sword, or the sword of France?” “It is only the sword of
the Emperor,” was Castelnau’s reply. “Well, there is no use talking
about other conditions,” said Von Moltke, sharply, while a look of
contentment and gratification passed over his face, according to
Bismarck; one “almost joyful,” writes the keen Captain d’Orcet. “After
the last words of Von Moltke,” he continues, “De Wimpffen exclaimed,
‘We shall renew the battle.’ ‘The truce,’ retorted the German General,
‘expires to-morrow morning at four o’clock. At four, precisely, I shall
open fire.’ We were all standing. After Von Moltke’s words no one spoke
a syllable. The silence was icy.” But then Bismarck intervened to sooth
excited feelings, and called on his soldier comrade to show, once
more, how impossible resistance had become. The group sat down again
at the red baize-covered table, and Von Moltke began his demonstration
afresh. “Ah,” said De Wimpffen, “your positions are not so strong as
you would have us believe them to be.” “You do not know the topography
of the country about Sedan,” was Von Moltke’s true and crushing answer.
“Here is a bizarre detail which illustrates the presumptuous and
inconsequent character of your people,” he went on, now thoroughly
aroused. “When the war began you supplied your officers with maps of
Germany at a time when they could not study the geography of their own
country for want of French maps. I tell you that our positions are not
only very strong, they are inexpugnable.” It was then that De Wimpffen,
unable to reply, wished to accept the offer made, but not accepted at
an earlier period, and to send an officer to verify these assertions.
“You will send nobody,” exclaimed the iron General. “It is useless,
and you can believe my word. Besides, you have not long to reflect.
It is now midnight; the truce ends at four o’clock, and I will grant
no delay.” Driven to his last ditch, De Wimpffen pleaded that he must
consult his fellow-Generals, and he could not obtain their opinions
by four o’clock. Once more the diplomatic peacemaker intervened, and
Von Moltke agreed to fix the final limit at nine. “He gave way at
last,” says Bismarck, “when I showed him that it could do no harm.”
The conference so dramatic broke up, and each one went his way; but,
says the German official narrative, “as it was not doubtful that the
hostile Army, completely beaten and nearly surrounded, would be obliged
to submit to the clauses already indicated, the Great Head-quarter
Staff was occupied, that very night, in drawing up the text of the
capitulation” a significant and practical comment, showing what stuff
there was behind the severe language which, at the midnight meeting,
fell from the Chief of that able and sleepless body of chosen men.

                      _Napoleon III. Surrenders._

General de Wimpffen went straight from the military conference to the
wearied Emperor who had gone to bed. But he received his visitor,
who told him that the proposed conditions were hard, and that
the sole chance of mitigation lay in the efforts of His Majesty.
“General,” said the Emperor, “I shall start at five o’clock for the
German head-quarters, and I shall see whether the King will be more
favourable;” for he seems to have become possessed of an idea that
King William would personally treat with him. The Emperor kept his
word. Believing that he would be permitted to return to Sedan, he
drove forth without bidding farewell to any of his troops; but, as
the drawbridge of Torcy was lowered and he passed over, the Zouaves
on duty shouted “Vive l’Empereur!” This cry was “the last adieu which
fell on his ears” as we read in the narrative given to the world
on his behalf. He drove in a droshki towards Donchery, preceded by
General Reille who, before six o’clock, awoke Count Bismarck from his
slumbers, and warned him that the Emperor desired to speak with him. “I
went with him directly,” said Bismarck, in a conversation reported by
Busch; “and got on my horse, all dusty and dirty as I was, in an old
cap and my great waterproof boots, to ride to Sedan where I supposed
him to be.” But he met him on the high road near Frénois, “sitting
in a two-horse carriage.” Beside him was the Prince de la Moskowa,
and on horseback Castlenau and Reille. “I gave the military salute,”
says Bismarck. “He took his cap off and the officers did the same;
whereupon I took off mine, although it was contrary to rule. He said,
‘Couvrez-vous, donc.’ I behaved to him just as if in St. Cloud, and
asked his commands.” Naturally, he wanted to see the King, but that
could not be allowed. Then Bismarck placed his quarters in Donchery at
the Emperor’s disposal, but he, thinking, as we know, that he would
return to the Sub-Prefecture, declined the courtesy, and preferred
to rest in a house by the wayside. The cottage of a Belgian weaver
unexpectedly became famous; a one-storied house, painted yellow, with
white shutters and venetian blinds. He and the Chancellor entered the
house, and went up to the first floor where there was “a little room
with one window. It was the best in the house, but had only one deal
table and two rush-bottomed chairs,” In that lowly abode they talked
together of many things for three-quarters of an hour, among others
about the origin of the war which, it seems, neither desired, the
Emperor asserting, Bismarck reports that “he had been driven into it
by the pressure of public opinion,” a very inadequate representation
of the curious incidents which preceded the fatal decision. But when
the Emperor began to ask for more favourable terms, he was told that,
on a military question, Von Moltke alone could speak. On the other
hand Bismarck’s request to know who now had authority to make peace
was met by a reference to “the Government in Paris;” so that no
progress was made. Then “we must stand to our demands with regard to
the Army of Sedan,” said Bismarck. General von Moltke was summoned,
and “Napoleon III. demanded that nothing should be decided before he
had seen the King, for he hoped to obtained from His Majesty some
favourable concessions for the Army.” The German official narrative of
the war states that the Emperor expressed a wish that the Army might be
permitted to enter Belgium, but that, of course, the Chief of the Staff
could not accept the proposal. General von Moltke forthwith set out for
Vendresse where the King was, to report progress. He met His Majesty on
the road, and there “the King fully approved the proposed conditions
of capitulation, and declared that he would not see the Emperor until
the terms prescribed had been accepted;” a decision which gratified the
Chancellor as well as the Chief of the Staff. “I did not wish them to
come together,” observed the Count, “until we had settled the matter
of the capitulation;” sparing the feelings of both and leaving the
business to the hard military men.

The Emperor lingered about in the garden of the weaver’s cottage; he
seems to have desired fresh air after his unpleasant talk with the
Chancellor. Dr. Moritz Busch, who had hurried to the spot, has left
a characteristic description of the Emperor. He saw there “a little
thick-set man,” wearing jauntily a red cap with a gold border, a
black paletôt lined with red, red trousers, and white kid gloves,
“The look in his light grey eyes was somewhat soft and dreamy, like
that of people who have lived hard. His whole appearance,” says the
irreverent Busch, “was a little unsoldierlike. The man looked too
soft, I might say too shabby, for the uniform he wore,” phrases which
suggest a lack of sympathy with adversity, and severe physical as
well as mental suffering. But imagination can realize a picture of
the fallen potentate, whose dynasty, crashing down, drew so much with
it, as he was seen by the cynical German, talking to his officers, or
to the burly Chancellor, or walking alone up and down a potato field
in flower, with his white-gloved hands behind his back, smoking a
cigarette; “betrayed by fortune” or fate, as he believed, but pursued,
as others might say, by the natural consequences of his marvellous
adventures, and of a strange neglect of the one source of strength
on which he relied, the Army. He had failed in the business upon the
conduct of which he prided himself; he was a bankrupt Emperor.

                     _The French Generals Submit._

While one scene in the stupendous drama was performed at the weaver’s
cottage, another was acted or endured in Sedan, where De Wimpffen had
summoned the generals to consider the dreadful terms of capitulation.
He has given his own account of the incident; but the fullest report
is supplied by Lebrun. There were present at this council of war more
than thirty generals. With tearful eyes and a voice broken by sobs, the
unhappy and most ill-starred De Wimpffen described his interview and
conflict with Von Moltke and Bismarck, and its dire result—the Army
to surrender as prisoners of war, the officers alone to retain their
arms, and by way of mitigating the rigour of these conditions, full
permission to return home would be given to any officer, provided he
would engage in writing and on honour not to serve again during the
war. The generals, save one or two, and these finally acquiesced, felt
that the conditions could not be refused; but they were indignant at
the clause suggesting that the officers might escape the captivity
which would befall their soldiers, provided they would engage to
become mere spectators of the invasion of their country. In the midst
of these mournful deliberations Captain von Zingler, a messenger from
Von Moltke, entered, and the scene became still more exciting. “I am
instructed,” he said, “to remind you how urgent it is that you should
come to a decision. At ten o’clock, precisely, if you have not come to
a resolution, the German batteries will fire on Sedan. It is now nine,
and I shall have barely time to carry your answer to head-quarters.” To
this sharp summons De Wimpffen answered that he could not decide until
he knew the result of the interview between the Emperor and the King.
“That interview,” said the stern Captain, “will not in any way affect
the military operations, which can only be determined by the generals
who have full power to resume or stop the strife.” It was, indeed, as
Lebrun remarked, useless to argue with a Captain, charged to state a
fact; and at the General’s suggestion De Wimpffen agreed to accompany
Captain von Zingler to the German head-quarters.

These were, for the occasion, the Château de Bellevue, where the
Emperor himself had been induced to take up his abode, and about eleven
o’clock, in a room under the Imperial chamber, De Wimpffen put his name
at the foot of the document drawn up, during the night, by the German
Staff. Then he sought out the Emperor, and, greatly moved, told him
that “all was finished.” His Majesty, he writes, “with tears in his
eyes, approached me, pressed my hand, and embraced me;” and “my sad and
painful duty having been accomplished, I remounted my horse and rode
back to Sedan, ‘la mort dans l’âme.’”

So soon as the convention was signed, the King arrived, accompanied
by the Crown Prince. Three years before, as the Emperor reminds us in
the writing attributed to him, the King had been his guest in Paris,
where all the sovereigns of Europe had come to behold the marvels of
the famous Exhibition. “Now,” so runs the lamentation, “betrayed by
fortune, Napoleon III. had lost all, and had placed in the hands of
his conqueror the sole thing left him—his liberty.” And he goes on
to say, in general terms, that the King deeply sympathized with his
misfortunes, but nevertheless could not grant better conditions to
the Army. “He told the Emperor that the castle of Wilhelmshöhe had
been selected as his residence; the Crown Prince then entered and
cordially shook hands with Napoleon; and at the end of a quarter of an
hour the King withdrew. The Emperor was permitted to send a telegram
in cipher to the Empress, to tell her what had happened, and urge her
to negotiate a peace.” Such is the bald record of this impressive
event. The telegram, which reached the Empress at four o’clock on the
afternoon of the 3rd, was in these words: “The Army is defeated and
captive; I myself am a prisoner.”

For one day more the fallen sovereign rested at Bellevue to meditate
on the caprices of fortune or the decrees of fate. But that day, at
the head of a splendid company of princes and generals, King William,
crossing the bridge of Donchery, rode throughout the whole vast extent
of the German lines, to greet his hardy warriors and be greeted by them
on the very scene of their victories. And well they deserved regal
gratitude, for together with their comrades who surrounded Metz, by
dint of long swift marches and steadfast valour, they had overcome two
great Armies in thirty days.

During the battle of Sedan, the Germans lost in killed and wounded
8,924 officers and men. On the other hand, the French lost 3,000
killed, 14,000 wounded, and 21,000 captured in the battle. The number
of prisoners by capitulation was 83,000, while 3,000 were disarmed in
Belgium, and a few hundreds, more or less, made their way by devious
routes near and over the frontier, to Mézières, Rocroi, and other
places in France. In addition, were taken one eagle and two flags, 419
field guns and mitrailleuses, 139 garrison guns, many wagons, muskets,
and horses. On the day after the surrender, the French soldiers, having
stacked their arms in Sedan, marched into the peninsula formed by the
deep loop of the Meuse—“le Camp de Misère” as they called it—and were
sent thence in successive batches, numbered by thousands, to Germany.
Such was the astonishing end of the Army of Chalons, which had been
impelled to its woful doom by the Comte de Palikao and the Paris
politicians. Directed by General Vinoy, who was an able soldier, the
troops brought to Mézières, escaped by rapid and clever marches from
the German cavalry and the 6th Corps, and formed the nucleus of the
improvised Army which afterwards defended the capital.

                              _The End._

On the 3rd of September the Emperor Napoleon III. departed from
Bellevue on his journey to the Castle of Wilhelmshöhe, near Cassel. The
morning was wet and gloomy, and a thunderstorm was gathering among the
hills of the Ardennes. The Imperial baggage-train had been permitted
to leave Sedan, and was drawn up on the road ready to start. Columns
of prisoners also were moving out of the fortress and marching towards
the peninsula formed by the Meuse. It was a lugubrious scene, and
the superstitious might remark that as the sun shone resplendently
on the German victory, so his light was obscured when the captive
Emperor drove through the muddy streets of Donchery and thence to the
northward, wrapped in the sombre mist and thickly falling rain. And
as he journeyed, disconsolately, in the forenoon, upon the road to
Bouillon, orders went forth from the German head-quarters, where time
was never lost, directing the conquering generals to leave the 11th and
one Bavarian Corps on guard over Sedan and the thousands of unhappy
prisoners, and resume, with all the rest, that march on the capital of
France which had been so abruptly interrupted only eight days before.
So the victors and the vanquished went their different ways.

The Emperor travelled without haste, and on the evening of the 4th he
slept at Verviers. The next morning he learned, in common with all
Europe, indeed all the civilized world, that the fires which seethe
under the bright surface of society in Paris had once more burst
through the thin crust of use and wont, and that the dynasty of the
Bonapartes had been utterly overthrown at a blow to make way for the
Republic. Like intelligence reached the King of Prussia, also, at his
head-quarters, which, on the 5th, were already in Reims. The contrast
is painful. The King saw his hopes of an early peace destroyed; but
his was a solidly planted throne and he was the leader of irresistible
armies. The Emperor knew that his fond dream of founding an Imperial
House had been dispelled in an hour by a blast of national wrath;
and, being a kindly man, his agony was the keener because, as he
pathetically says, “he was separated from his son, and knew not what
fate had befallen the Empress.” Racked by such sad reflections, at
the very time when his wife was escaping to England, Louis Napoleon
Bonaparte went, by railway, from Verviers to Wilhelmshöhe. There,
during a luxurious captivity of six months, he had ample leisure to
meditate on the causes which led to the catastrophe of Sedan and the
surrender of Metz; and to ascertain, if he could, why, after a second
trial, ending in the third entry of hostile troops into Paris, the
French nation had lost its belief in the saving qualities of a family
bearing a name which, if associated with undying “glory,” has also
become indissolubly linked with bitter memories of lost provinces and
gigantic military disasters.



                       THE GERMAN FIELD ARMIES.

General Baron von Moltke; Quartermaster, General Podbielski;
Inspector-General of Artillery, General von Hindersin.

Present with the Great Head Quarters were the Minister of War, General
von Roon; and the Federal Chancellor and Minister President, General
Count von Bismarck-Schönhausen.

                              FIRST ARMY.

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von Steinmetz; Chief of the Staff, Gen. von
Sperling; Chief Quartermaster, Col. Count von Wartensleben.

                           _First Corps._[2]

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General Baron von Manteuffel; Chief of the
Staff, Lieut.-Col. von der Burg. 1st Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Bentheim;
1st Brig., Major-Gen. von Gayl; 2nd Brig., Major-Gen. Baron von
Falkenstein. 2nd Div., Major-Gen. von Pritzelwitz; 3rd Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Memerty; 4th Brig., Major-Gen. von Zglintski; Commander
of Artillery, Major-Gen. von Bergemann.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 14 batteries, 84 guns; 3 companies of Pioneers.

[Footnote 2: This Corps did not arrive until August 5.]

                           _Seventh Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von Zastrow; Chief of the Staff, Col. von
Unger. 13th Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Glümer; 25th Brig., Major-Gen. Baron
von Osten-Sacken; 26th Brig., Major-Gen. Baron von Golz. 14th Div.,
Lieut.-General von Kameke; 27th Brig., Major-Gen. von François; 28th
Brig., Major-Gen. von Woyna; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen. von

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 14 batteries, 84 guns; and 3 companies of Pioneers.

                            _Eighth Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von Goeben; Chief of the Staff, Col.
von Witzendorff. 15th Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Weltzien; 29th Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Wedell; 30th Brig., Major-Gen. von Strubberg. 16th Div.,
Lieut.-Gen. Barnekow; 31st, Major-Gen. Count Neidhard von Gneisenau;
32nd, Col von Rex; Commander of Artillery, Colonel von Kameke.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 15 batteries, 90 guns; and 3 companies of Pioneers.

                       _First Cavalry Division._

COMMANDER, Lieut.-General von Hartmann. Brigadiers: 1st Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Lüderitz; 2nd Brig., Major-Gen. von Baumgarth (each was
composed of one Cuirassier and two Uhlan regiments, and accompanied by
a Horse Artillery Battery).

Strength: 24 squadrons, 3,600 horses, and 6 guns.

_Third Cavalry Division._

COMMANDER, Lieut.-Gen. Count von der Gröben. Brigadiers: 6th Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Mirus (one Cuirassier and one Uhlan regiment); 7th
Brig., Major-Gen. Count von Dohna (two Uhlan regiments).

Strength: 16 squadrons, 2,400 horses, 1 Horse Artillery battery, 6 guns.

                       _Strength of First Army._

                 Battalions. Squadrons. Batteries. Guns.
    1st Corps         25         8       14         84
    7th Corps         25         8       15         90
    8th Corps         25         8       14         84
    1st Cav. Div.               24        1          6
    3rd Cav. Div.               16        1          6
                      --        --       --        ---
            Total     75        64       45        270

                           THE SECOND ARMY.

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, H.R.H. Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia; Chief
of Staff, Major-Gen. von Stiehle; Chief Quartermaster, Colonel von
Hertzberg; Commander of Artillery, Lieut.-Gen. von Colomier.

                          _The Guard Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Prince Augustus of Würtemberg; Chief of the Staff,
Major-Gen. von Dannenberg. 1st Div., Major-Gen. von Pape; 1st Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Kessel; 2nd Brig., Major-Gen. Baron von Medem. 2nd Div.,
Lieut.-Gen. von Budritzki; 3rd Brig., Colonel Knappe von Knappstädt;
4th Brig., Major-Gen. von Berger; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen.
Kraft, Prince of Hohenlohe Ingelfingen.

CAVALRY DIVISION:—Commander, Major-Gen. Count von der Golz; 1st Brig.,
Major-Gen. Count von Brandenburg I. (Life Guards and Cuirassiers); 2nd
Brig., Lieut.-Gen. Prince Albert of Prussia (two Uhlan regiments); 3rd
Brig., Lieut.-Gen. Count von Brandenburg II. (two Dragoon regiments).

Strength of Corps: 29 battalions, 29,000 men; 32 squadrons, 4,800
horses; 15 batteries, 90 guns; and 3 companies of Pioneers.

                          _Second Corps._[3]

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von Fransecky; Chief of the Staff, Colonel
von Wichmann; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen. von Kleist. 3rd Div.,
Major-Gen. von Hartmann; 5th Brig., Major-Gen. von Koblinski; 6th
Brig., Colonel von der Decken. 4th Div., Lieut.-Gen. Hann von Weihern;
7th Brig., Major-Gen. du Trossel; 8th Brig., Major-Gen. von Kettler.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 14 batteries, 84 guns; and 3 companies of Artillery.

[Footnote 3: Came up to the front at the battle of Gravelotte.]

                            _Third Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Lieut.-Gen. von Alvensleben II.; Chief of the
Staff, Colonel von Voigts-Rhetz; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen.
von Bülow. 5th Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Stülpnagel; 9th Brig., Major-Gen.
von Döring; 10th Brig., Major-Gen. von Schwerin. 6th Div., Lieut.-Gen.
Baron von Buddenbrock; 11th Brig., Major-Gen. von Rothmaler; 12th
Brig., Colonel von Bismarck.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 14 batteries, 84 guns; and 3 companies of Pioneers.

                            _Fourth Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von Alvensleben I.; Chief of the Staff,
Colonel von Thile; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen. von Scherbening.
7th Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Schwarzhoff; 13th Brig., Major-Gen. von
Worries; 14th Brig., Major-Gen. von Zychlinski. 8th Div., Lieut.-Gen.
von Schöler; 15th Brig., Major-Gen. von Kessler; 16th Brig., Colonel
von Scheffler.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 14 batteries, 84 guns; and 3 companies of Pioneers.

                            _Ninth Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von Manstein; Chief of the Staff, Major
Bronsart von Schellendorf; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen. von
Puttkammer. 18th Div., Lieut.-Gen. Baron von Wrangel; 35th Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Blumenthal; 36th Brig., Major-Gen. von Below. The
Hessian Division (25th): Commander, Lieut.-Gen. H.R.H. Prince Louis
of Hesse; 49th Brig., Major-Gen. von Wittich; 50th Brig., Colonel von

Strength of Corps: 23 battalions, 23,000 men; 12 squadrons, 1,800
horses; 15 batteries, 90 guns; 3 companies of Pioneers.

                            _Tenth Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von Voigts-Rhetz; Chief of the Staff,
Lieut.-Col. von Caprivi; Commander of Artillery, Colonel Baron von der
Becke. 19th Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Schwarzkoppen; 37th Brig., Colonel
von Lehmann; 38th Brig., Major-Gen. von Wedell. 20th Div., Major-Gen.
Kraatz Koschlau; 39th Brig., Major-Gen. von Woyna; 40th Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Diringshofen.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 14 batteries, 84 guns; 3 companies of Pioneers.

                    _Twelfth (Royal Saxon) Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General H.R.H. the Crown Prince of Saxony; Chief of
the Staff, Colonel von Zezschwitz; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen.
Köhler. 1st Div., Prince George of Saxony; 1st Brig., Major-Gen. von
Craushaar; 2nd Brig., Colonel von Montbé. 2nd Div., Major-Gen. Nehrhoff
von Holderberg; 3rd Brig., Major-Gen. von Leonhardi; 4th Brig., Colonel
von Schulz. [N.B. The Infantry Divisions were also numbered 23 and
24, and the brigades 45, 46, 47, and 48, to fit them into the general

Strength of Corps: 29 battalions, 29,000 men; 24 squadrons, 3,600
horses; 16 batteries, 96 guns; 3 companies of Pioneers. [The Cavalry
formed the 12th Division, commanded by the Count of Lippe; Brigadiers,
Major-Gen. Krug von Nidda and Major-Gen. Seufft von Pilsach.]

                     _The Fifth Cavalry Division._

COMMANDER, Lieut.-Gen. Baron von Rheinbaben; 11th Brig., Major-Gen. von
Barby (a Cuirassier, a Uhlan, and a Dragoon regiment); 12th Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Bredow (similarly formed); 13th Brig., Major-Gen. von
Redern (three Hussar regiments).

Strength of Division: 36 squadrons, 5,400 horses; 2 batteries, 12 guns,
Horse Artillery.

                     _The Sixth Cavalry Division._

COMMANDER, Duke William of Mecklenburg-Schwerin; 14th Brig., Major-Gen.
Baron von Diepenbroick-Grüter (a Cuirassier and two Uhlan regiments);
15th Brig., Major-Gen. von Rauch (two Hussar regiments).

Strength of Division: 20 squadrons, 3,000 horses; and 1 Horse Artillery
battery, 6 guns.

                      _Strength of Second Army._

                Battalions. Squadrons. Batteries. Guns.
    Guard           29         32       15        90
    2nd Corps       25          8       14        84
    3rd Corps       25          8       14        84
    4th Corps       25          8       14        84
    9th Corps       23         12       15        90
    10th Corps      25          8       14        84
    12th Corps      29         24       16        96
    5th Cav. Div               36        2        12
    6th Cav. Div               20        1         6
                   ---        ---      ---       ---
         Total.    181        156      105       630

                            THE THIRD ARMY.

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, H.R.H. the Crown Prince of Prussia; Chief of the
Staff, Lieut.-Gen. von Blumenthal; Chief Quartermaster, Colonel von
Gottberg; Commander of Artillery, Lieut.-Gen. Herkt.

                            _Fifth Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Lieut.-Gen. von Kirchbach; Chief of the Staff,
Colonel von der Esch; Commander of the Artillery, Colonel Gaede. 9th
Div., Major-Gen. von Sandrart; 17th Brig., Colonel von Bothmer; 18th
Brig., Major-Gen. von Voigts-Rhetz. 10th Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Schmidt;
19th Brig., Colonel von Henning auf Schönhoff; 20th Brig., Major-Gen.
Walther von Montbary.

Strength of Corps; 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 14 batteries, 84 guns; 3 companies of Pioneers.

                           _Sixth Corps._[4]

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von Tümpling; Chief of the Staff, Colonel
von Salviati; Commander of Artillery, Colonel von Ramm. 11th Div.,
Lieut.-Gen. von Gordon; 21st Brig., Major-Gen. von Malachowski; 22nd
Brig., Major-Gen. von Eckartsberg. 12th Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Hoffmann;
23rd Brig., Major-Gen. Gündel; 24th Brig., Major-Gen. von Fabeck.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses, 14 batteries, 84 guns; 3 companies of Pioneers.

[Footnote 4: This Corps did not cross the frontier until the 6th of

                           _Eleventh Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Lieut.-Gen. von Bose; Chief of the Staff,
Major-Gen. Stein von Kaminski; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen.
Hausmann. 21st Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Schachtmeyer; 41st Brig., Colonel
von Koblinski; 42nd Brig., Major-Gen. von Thile. 22nd Div., Lieut.-Gen.
von Gersdorff; 43rd Brig., Colonel von Konski; 44th Brig., Major-Gen.
von Schkopp.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 8 squadrons, 1,200
horses; 14 batteries, 84 guns; 3 companies of Pioneers.

                        _First Bavarian Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General von der Tann-Rathsamhausen; Chief of the
Staff, Lieut.-Col. von Heinleth; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen. von
Malaisé. 1st Div., Lieut.-Gen von Stephan; 1st Brig., Major-Gen. Dietl;
2nd Brig., Major-Gen. von Orff. 2nd Div., Major-Gen. Schumaker; 3rd
Brig., Colonel Heyle; 4th Brig., Major-Gen. Baron von der Tann.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 20 squadrons, 3,000
horses (Cuirassiers and Light Horse); 16 batteries, 96 guns; 3
companies of Pioneers.

                       _Second Bavarian Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General Ritter von Hartmann; Chief of the Staff,
Colonel Baron von Horn; Commander of Artillery, Major-Gen. Lutz. 3rd
Div., Lieut.-Gen. von Walther; 5th Brig., Major-Gen. von Schleich; 6th
Brig., Colonel Borries von Wissel. 4th Div., Lieut.-Gen. Count von
Bothmer; 7th Brig., Major-Gen. von Thiereck; 8th Brig., Major-Gen.

Strength of Corps: 25 battalions, 25,000 men; 20 squadrons, 3,000
horses (Cuirassier, Uhlan, Light Horse); 16 batteries, 96 guns; 3
companies of Pioneers.

                      _The Würtemberg Division._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Lieut.-Gen. von Obernitz; Chief of the Staff,
Colonel von Bock; Commander of Artillery, Colonel von Sick; 1st Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Reitstenstein; 2nd Brig., Major-Gen. von Starkloff; 3rd
Brig., Major-Gen. Baron von Hügel.

Strength of Division: 15 battalions, 15,000 men; 10 squadrons, 1,500
horses; 9 batteries, 54 guns; 2 companies of Pioneers.

                           _Baden Division._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Lieut.-Gen. von Beyer; Chief of the Staff,
Lieut.-Col. von Leszczynski; Commander of Artillery, Colonel von
Freydorf; 1st Brig., Lieut.-Gen. du Jarrhs, Baron von la Roche; 2nd
Brig., Major-Gen. Keller.

Strength of Division: 13 battalions, 13,000 men; 12 squadrons, 1,800
horses; 9 batteries, 54 guns; 1 Pioneer company.

                     _Second Cavalry Division._[5]

COMMANDER, Lieut.-Gen. Count Stolberg-Wernigerode; 3rd Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Colomb (two regiments, Cuirassier and Uhlan); 4th Brig.,
Major-Gen. Baron von Barnekow (two regiments of Hussars); 5th Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Baumbach (two regiments of Hussars).

Strength: 24 squadrons, 3,600 horses; 2 Horse Artillery batteries, 12

[Footnote 5: This Division came up after the 4th of August.]

                      _Fourth Cavalry Division._

COMMANDER, General H.R.H. Prince Albrecht of Prussia, senior; 8th
Brig., Major-Gen. von Hontheim (two regiments, Cuirassier and Uhlan);
9th Brig., Major-Gen. von Bernhardi (two Uhlan regiments); 10th Brig.,
Major-Gen. von Krosigk (two regiments, Hussar and Dragoon).

Strength: 24 squadrons, 3,600 horses; 2 Horse Artillery batteries, 12

                        STRENGTH OF THIRD ARMY.

                   Battalions. Squadrons. Batteries. Guns.
    5th Corps           25         8       14        84
    6th Corps           25         8       14        84
    11th Corps          25         8       14        84
    1st Bavarian        25        20       16        96
    2nd Bavarian        25        20       16        96
    Würtemberg Div.     15        10        9        54
    Baden Div           13        12        9        54
    2nd Cav. Div.                 24        2        12
    4th Cav. Div.                 24        2        12
                       ---       ---       --       ---
        Total          153       134       96       576

                      TOTAL OF THE THREE ARMIES.

                   Battalions. Squadrons. Batteries. Guns.
    First Army          75        64       45        270
    Second Army        181       156      105        630
    Third Army         153       134       96        576
                       ---       ---      ---      -----
    Grand Total        409       354      246      1,476

By the end of August the 17th Division of Infantry and the 2nd Division
of Landwehr, under the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, in addition
to the 3rd Reserve Division already on the spot under General Kunsmor,
were brought up to take part in the investment of Metz. The troops
sent forward to reinforce the Baden Division before Strasburg were the
Landwehr Division of the Guard, the 1st Reserve Division, and the 1st
brigade of reserve cavalry. During August, counting all ranks, sick or
well, and including every species of non-combatant, the mean strength
of the Armies in the field was 780,723 men, and 213,159 horses.


                           THE FRENCH ARMY.

of the Staff, Marshal Lebœuf, assisted by General Lebrun and General
Jarras; Commander of Artillery, General Soleille; of Engineers, General
Coffinières de Nordeck.

                            IMPERIAL GUARD.

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General Bourbaki; Chief of the Staff, General
d’Auvergne; Commander of Artillery, General Pé d’Arros; Divisional
Commanders: 1st Div. (Voltigeurs), General Deligny; Brigadiers:
1st Brig., General Brincourt; 2nd Brig., General Garnier. 2nd
Div. (Grenadiers), General Picard; Brigadiers: 1st Brig., General
Jeanningros; 2nd Brig., General le Poitevin de Lacroix.

Strength of Corps: 24 battalions; 24 squadrons—(Desvaux’s Div. of three
brigades, commanded by Halna du Fretay, De France, and Du Preuil,
consisting of Guides, Chasseurs, Lancers, Dragoons, Cuirassiers, and
Carbineers)—60 guns, and 12 mitrailleuses; 2 companies of Engineers.

                            _First Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Marshal MacMahon, Duke of Magenta; Chief of the
Staff, Gen. Colson; Commander of Artillery, Gen. Forgeot. Divisional
Commanders: 1st Div., Gen. Ducrot; 1st Brig., Gen. Wolff; 2nd Brig.,
Gen. de Postis du Houlbec. 2nd Div., Gen. Abel Douay; 1st Brig., Gen.
Pelletier de Montmarie; 2nd Brig., Gen. Pellé. 3rd Div., Gen. Raoult;
1st Brig., Gen. l’Hériller; 2nd Brig., Gen. Lefebvre. 4th Div., Gen.
Lartigue; 1st Brig., Lieut.-Gen. Fraboulet de Kerléadec; 2nd Brig.,
Gen. Lacretelle.

Strength of Corps: 52 battalions—45 deducting the regiments left in
Strasburg; 28 squadrons—Duhesme’s brigade of Cuirassiers, Hussars,
Chasseurs, Lancers, and Dragoons—96 guns and 24 mitrailleuses; 5½
companies of Engineers.

                            _Second Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General Frossard; Chief of the Staff, Gen. Saget;
Commander of Artillery, Gen. Gagneur, 1st Div., Gen. Vergé; 1st
Brig., Gen. Letellier Valazé; 2nd Brig., Gen. Jolivet. 2nd Div., Gen.
Bataille; 1st Brig., Gen. Pouget; 2nd Brig., Gen. Fauvart-Bastoul. 3rd
Div., Gen. de Laveaucoupet; 1st Brig., Gen. Doëns; 2nd Brig., Gen.

Strength of Corps: 39 battalions; 16 squadrons—(Valabrègue’s Division,
4 regiments of Chasseurs and Dragoons)—72 guns, 18 mitrailleuses; 5
companies of Engineers.

                            _Third Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Marshal Bazaine; Chief of the Staff, Gen. Manèque;
Commander of Artillery, Gen. de Rochebouët. 1st Div., Gen. Montaudon;
1st Brig., Gen. Baron Aymard; 2nd Brig., Gen. Clinchant. 2nd Div.,
Gen. de Castagny; 1st Brig., Gen. Nayral; 2nd Brig., Gen. Duplessis.
3rd Div., Gen. Metman; 1st Brig., Gen. de Potier; 2nd Brig., Gen.
Arnaudeau. 4th Div., Gen. Decaen; 1st Brig., Gen. de Brauer; 2nd Brig.,
Gen. Sanglé-Ferrière.

Strength of Corps: 52 battalions; 28 squadrons—(De Clérambault’s Div.,
3 regiments of Chasseurs, 4 of Dragoons, organized in 3 brigades)—96
guns, 24 mitrailleuses and 5½ companies of Engineers.

                            _Fourth Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General de Ladmirault; Chief of the Staff, Gen.
Osmont: Commander of Artillery, Gen. Lafaille. 1st Div., Gen. Courtot
de Cissey; 1st Brig., Gen. Count Brayer; 2nd Brig., Gen. de Golberg.
2nd Div., Gen. Grenier; 1st Brig., Gen. Bellecourt; 2nd Brig., Gen.
Pradier; 3rd Div., Gen. Count de Lorencez; 1st Brig., Gen. Count Pajol;
2nd Brig., Gen. Berger.

Strength of Corps: 39 battalions; 16 squadrons—(Legrand’s Div., 1
brigade of Hussars and 1 of Dragoons)—72 guns, 18 mitrailleuses; 4
companies of Engineers.

                            _Fifth Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General de Failly; Chief of the Staff, Gen.
Besson; Commander of Artillery, Gen. Liédot. 1st Div., Gen. Goze; 1st
Brig., Gen. Sauron; 2nd Brig., Gen. Nicolas-Nicolas. 2nd Div., Gen.
de l’Abadie d’Aydrein; 1st Brig., Gen. Lapasset; 2nd Brig., Gen. de
Maussion. 3rd Div., Gen. Guyot de Lespart; 1st Brig., Gen. Abbatucci;
2nd Brig., Gen. de Fontanges.

Strength of Corps: 39 battalions; 16 squadrons—(Brahaut’s Div.,
brigade of Hussars and Chasseurs, and one of Lancers)—72 guns, 18
mitrailleuses; 4 companies of Engineers.

                            _Sixth Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Marshal Canrobert; Chief of the Staff, Gen.
Henri; Commander of Artillery, Gen. Labastie. 1st Div., Gen. Tixier;
1st Brig., Gen. Péchot; 2nd Brig., Gen. Le Roy de Dais. 2nd Div.,
Gen. Bisson; 1st Brig., Gen. Archinard; 2nd Brig., Gen. Maurice. 3rd
Div., Gen. Lafont de Villers; 1st Brig., Gen. Becquet de Sonnay; 2nd
Brig., Gen. Colin. 4th Div., Gen. Levassor-Sorval; 1st Brig., Gen. de
Marguenat; 2nd Brig., Gen. Comte de Chanaleilles.

Strength of Corps: 49 battalions; 24 squadrons—(Div. of
Salignac-Fénelon, three brigades Lancers, Hussars, Chasseurs, and
Cuirassiers)—114 guns, 6 mitrailleuses, and 5 companies of Engineers.
[Only 40 battalions and 36 guns were able to reach Metz.]

                           _Seventh Corps._

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, General Félix Douay; Chief of the Staff, Gen.
Renson; Commander of Artillery, Gen. de Liégeard. 1st Div., Gen.
Conseil Dumesnil; 1st Brig., Gen. Nicolaï; 2nd Brig., Gen. Maire. 2nd
Div., Gen. Liébert; 1st Brig., Gen. Guiomar; 2nd Brig., Gen. de la
Bastide. 3rd Div., Gen. Dumont; 1st Brig., Gen. Bordas; 2nd Brig., Gen.
Bittard des Portes.

Strength of Corps: 38 battalions; 20 squadrons—(Amiel’s Div., five
regiments, in two brigades, Lancers, Hussars, and Dragoons)—72 guns, 18
mitrailleuses, and 4 companies of Engineers. [One cavalry brigade of
two regiments never joined the 7th Corps.]

                          _Reserve Cavalry._

1st Div., Gen. du Barail; 1st Brig., Gen. Margueritte; 2nd Brig., Gen.
de Lajaille; 16 squadrons, Chasseurs d’Afrique, and 12 guns. [Three
regiments reached Metz on the 10th of August, and the 4th at Mouzon on
the Meuse.]

2nd Div., Gen. Viscomte de Bonnemains; 1st Brig., Gen. Girard; 2nd
Brig., Gen. de Brauer; 16 squadrons, all Cuirassiers.

3rd Div., Gen. de Forton; 1st Brig., Gen. Prince Murat; 2nd Brig.,
Gen. de Gramont; 16 squadrons—(one brigade of Dragoons, the other
Cuirassiers)—and 12 guns.

Artillery Reserve: Gen. Canu, 126 guns, 6 mitrailleuses, and 3
companies of Engineers.

                           STRENGTH OF ARMY.

              Battalions. Squadrons. Batteries. Guns. Mitrailleuses.
    Guard        24         24         12       60         12
    1st Corps    52         28         20       96         24
    2nd Corps    39         16         15       72         18
    3rd Corps    52         28         20       96         24
    4th Corps    39         16         15       72         18
    5th Corps    39         16         15       72         18
    6th Corps    49         24         20      114          6
    7th Corps    38         20         15       72         18
    Reserve Cav.            48          6       30          6
    Reserve Art.                                16         96
                ---        ---        ---      ---        ---
                332        220        154      780        144

It is not possible to do more than guess at the numerical strength of
the French Corps, and consequently of the French Army; so great is the
variation in the strength of battalions and squadrons. The infantry of
the several Corps was continually augmented by the arrival of reserves,
so that, the losses at Spicheren notwithstanding, the 2nd Corps was
stronger by more than 2,000 men, five days after the battle, than it
was on the morning of the 6th; Marshal Lebœuf told the Parliamentary
Commission that, on the 1st of August, according to the “states” sent
in to the head-quarters, the effective of the Army of the Rhine,
including all the Corps in the field, was 243,171 men. But “the real
effective,” he adds, “was greatly superior.” For by the 1st of August,
no fewer than “278,882 men had been sent to the Army of the Rhine,” and
subsequently, until the 14th, “numerous detachments.” It is plain that
no precise information can be obtained, but it seems probable that the
strength was always greater than that reported at the time. Similar
uncertainty prevails respecting the effective strength of the “Army of
Chalons.” The only authentic figures extant are those supplied by the
German account of the capitulation, from which the original strength,
increased by additions on the line of march, may be inferred.


                     THE PROTOCOL OF CAPITULATION.

Between the undersigned, the Chief of the Staff of His Majesty the
King of Prussia, commanding in chief the German Army, and the General,
commanding in chief the French Army, each having received full powers
from their Majesties, King William and the Emperor Napoleon, the
following Convention has been concluded:

_Article 1._—The French Army, placed under the orders of General de
Wimpffen, finding itself actually surrounded in Sedan by superior
forces, is prisoner of war.

_Article 2._—Having regard to the brave defence of this Army, an
exception is made for all the generals and officers, as well as for the
functionaries, having the rank of officer, who shall give their word of
honour, in writing, not to bear arms against Germany, and not to act
in any other manner against her interests until the end of the present
war. The officers and functionaries who may accept these conditions,
shall preserve their arms and personal property.

_Article 3._—All other arms, as well as the _matériel_ of the Army,
consisting of flags (eagles and standards), cannons, horses, military
chests, army equipages, munitions, etc., shall be surrendered at Sedan
to a Military Commission, appointed by the French Commander-in-Chief,
to be given over immediately to the German Commissioner.

_Article 4._—The fortress of Sedan shall be immediately placed in its
actual state, and, at the latest, by the evening of September 2, at the
disposal of His Majesty the King of Prussia.

_Article 5._—The officers who shall not have subscribed the engagement
mentioned in Article 2, and the men, after having been disarmed,
shall be ranked in regiments and conducted in good order into the
peninsula formed by the Meuse near Iges. The groups thus constituted
shall be handed over to the German Commissioners by the officers, who
will immediately give over the command to the sous-officers. This
arrangement will begin on the 2nd of September and should be finished
on the 3rd.

_Article 6._—The military medical men, without exception, will remain
behind to take care of the wounded.

Done at Frénois, September 2, 1870.

                                                   (Signed) VON MOLTKE.

                                                           DE WIMPFFEN.



Der Deutsch-Französische Krieg, 1870–71. Redigirt von der
Kriegsgeschichtlichen Abtheilung des Grossen Generalstabes.

The German Artillery. Captain Hoffbauer.

Operations of the First Army. Major A. von Schell.

Operations of the Bavarian Army. Captain H. Helvig.

Tactical Deductions from the War 1870-71. Captain A. von Boguslawski.

Our Chancellor; Sketches for a Historical Picture. By Moritz Busch.

Bismarck and the Franco-German War, 1870-71. By Dr. Moritz Busch.

My Diary during the last Great War. By W. H. Russell.

L’Armée du Rhin. Par le Maréchal Bazaine.

Episodes de la Guerre de 1870 et le Blocus de Metz. Par l’Ex-Maréchal

Affaire de la Capitulation de Metz. Procès Bazaine.

Metz, Campagne et Négociations. Par un Officier supérieur de l’Armée du

Journal d’un Officier de l’Armée du Rhin. Par Ch. Fay.

Œuvres Posthumes autographes inédits de Napoleon III. Collected and
published by the Comte de la Chapelle.

Sedan. Par le Général de Wimpffen.

La Journée de Sedan. Par le Général Ducrot.

Guerre de 1870. Bazeilles-Sedan. Par le Général Lebrun.

Campagne de 1870. Belfort, Reims, Sedan, Le 7^{e} Corps de l’Armée du
Rhin. Par le Prince Georges Bibesco.

Journal d’un Officier d’Ordonnance, Juillet 1870—Février 1871. Par le
Comte d’Hérisson.

Campagne de 1870. La Cavalerie Française. Par le Lieut.-Col. Bonie.

Campagne de 1870–71. Siége de Paris. Operations du 13^{e} Corps et de
la Troisième Armée. Par le Général Vinoy.

Documents Relatifs au Siége de Strasbourg. Publiés par le Général

Un Ministère de la Guerre de vingt quatre jours. Par le Général Cousin
de Montauban Comte de Palikao.

Enquête Parlementaire sur les Acts du Gouvernement de la Défense

Papiers et Correspondances de la Famille Impériale.

Ma Mission en Prusse. Par le Comte Benedetti.

France et la Prusse avant la Guerre. Par le Duc de Gramont.

_The Times_, October 25, 1871. Translation of Prince Bismarck’s Reply
to Count Benedetti’s “Mission en Prusse.”

La Politique Française en 1866. Par G. Rothan.

L’Affaire du Luxembourg: le prélude de la Guerre de 1870. Par G. Rothan.

Les Coulisses de la Diplomatie. Quinze Ans à l’Etranger. 1864–1879. Par
Jules Hansen.

Revue des Deux Mondes. Avril, 1878; and 1886–7.

Papers presented to Parliament Respecting the War between France and
Germany, 1870.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF WOERTH, ABOUT NOON. Plan I.

_Weller & Graham L^{td}. Lithos._ _London, Bell & Sons_]

[Illustration: BATTLE OF SPICHEREN, 3.30. P.M. Plan II.

_Weller & Graham L^{td}. Lithos._ _London, Bell & Sons_]

[Illustration: COLOMBEY-NOUILLY, 5. P.M. Plan III.

_Weller & Graham L^{td}. Lithos._ _London, Bell & Sons_]

[Illustration: VIONVILLE-MARS LA TOUR, ABOUT 4 P.M. Plan IV.

_Weller & Graham L^{td}. Lithos._ _London, Bell & Sons._]

[Illustration: GRAVELOTTE, 2.45 P.M. Plan V

_Weller & Graham L^{td}. Lithos._ _London, Bell & Sons._]

[Illustration: SEDAN, ABOUT 10 A.M. Plan VI.

_Weller & Graham L^{td}. Lithos._ _London, Bell & Sons_]

[Illustration: GENERAL MAP OF WAR-FIELD. _Weller & Graham L^{td}.
Lithos._ _London, Bell & Sons_]


  Abbatucci’s brigade at Woerth, 115.

  Abzac, Colonel d’, 252.

  Aillicourt, 293.

  Aire, river, 248.

  Aisne, river, 232, 242, 248, 249, 264, 277;
    the Guard on the, at Triaucourt, 232;
    canal, Meuse and, 251.

  Albrecht, Archduke of Austria, 34, 64.

  Albrecht of Prussia, Prince, 115.

  Albrechtshaüser, farm (Woerth), 107.

  Algeria, regiments from, 68.

  Algerians, native, 84.

  Alsace, 68;
    small German party enters, 70;
    84, 90;
    and Lorraine, 96;
    effect of blows struck in, 232;

  Alten, Major von, 323.

  Alvensleben I., General von, 267, 268.

  Alvensleben II., Lieut.-General von, at Spicheren, 121;
    “the fiery” directs attack (Vionville), 172, 176–178, 186, 187.

  Amanvillers (Gravelotte battle), French position, 193, 195, 196;
    198, 199, 201, 207, 208, 218, 220–225, 228;
    gallant charge of 3rd Brigade at, 220;
    railway from, to Habonville, 202.

  Amagne, 293.

  Amiel’s, General, Cavalry at Sedan, 296.

  Andigné, Colonel d’, 304, 305.

  Ardennes, the German Armies in the, 265–273.

  Argancy and Antilly, German reinforcements at, 281.

  Argonne, the, 245.

  Army of Chalons, the, composition of, 235, 236, 241;
    position of, 276, 285, 290, 307;
    its end, 336.

  Army, French, condition of, at beginning of war, 59, 60, 61, 62;
    after Saarbrück, 76;
    movements towards the Meuse, 257–261;
    returns to Metz camps, losses at Noisseville, 281;
    disorder in retreat on Sedan, 273–274, 286–287;
    position of, in Sedan, 296, 297;
    confused accounts of retreat, 302;
    three Commanders of, in three hours, 303;
    condition of, 310;
    surrenders, 336.

  Army, German, turned north-west, 245;
    facing north, 264, 267;
    pursues in running fight, 273.

  Army, German, First, as pivot, 138;
    also, 142, 144, 165.

  Army, German, Second, and First, all available men in motion, 190.

  Army, German, Third, Bavarians of, at Triaucourt, 254;
    movements of, 255, 256.

  Army, MacMahon’s, between Rhetel and Vouziers, 243.

  Army of the Meuse (German), composition of, 230;
    moving, 232, 233;
    movements of, 254, 255, 256;
    positions and losses, 274, 275.

  Army, Prussian, reform, 4, 5, 6.

  Army of the Rhine (French), positions at Spicheren, 117;
    retired westward of Metz, 188;
    facing Paris, 193;
    retires to Metz, 226, 228;
    reasons for defeat of, 229;
    in Metz, 285.

  Arndt, the spirit of, 2.

  Arry, village, 165.

  Ars, village on the Moselle, 177, 191, 193, 215;
    road from, to Jussy, troops on, 211.

  Ars-Laquenexy, village, 151.

  Artillery, duel at Beaumont, 270;
    clever withdrawal of Failly’s, 270;
    French and German, 312, 313;
    German, at Noisseville, 281;
    effect of, 299;
    German, grand but disastrous conduct of, 201;
    Steinmetz’s attack with, 212, 213.

  Attigny on the Aisne, 234, 249, 251, 293.

  Aube, river, 247.

  Auboué, 208, 210.

  Auerswald, Colonel von, 182, 183.

  Austria, and the Italian question, 12;
    refuses Conference, 12;
    crushed by Prussia, excluded from Germany, 13;
    irritated as well as humbled, 16;
    requests Diet to call out Federal Corps, 12.

  Austrian Emperor, Francis Joseph, and Schleswig-Holstein, 6, 7, 9;
    meets Napoleon III. at Salzburg, 33, 34;
    Napoleon III. appeals to, 160.

  Aymard, General, 280.

  Aymard’s division of Decaen’s Corps at Colombey, 156, 161;
    at Vionville, 180.

  Balan, 298, 305, 306;
    and Bazeilles, Germans hold, 310;
    the Emperor watching fight near, 311;
    Wimpffen’s effort at, 316, 317, 324.

  Ban St. Martin (Metz), Bazaine’s fatal despatch from, 241.

  Banthéville, 257;
    Guards at, 259.

  Bar le Duc, King at, 25th Aug., 233;
    German head-quarters, 243, 247;
    council at, 254, 255, 256.

  Baraque Mouton, farmstead, Germans take, 126.

  Barby, General von, 163, 164;
    at Mars la Tour, 180, 183, 184.

  Barail, Du, at Conflans, 164;
    at Mars la Tour, 183, 184.

  Barnekow, General von, 121, 185.

  Basle, 70.

  Bataille, General, at Spicheren, 120, 123, 126;
    at Vionville, 171, 173, 174.

  Bavarians in Bazeilles, 298, 299.

  Bayon on the Upper Moselle, 163.

  Bayonville, 259, 264.

  Bazaine, Marshal, ordered to occupy Saarbrück, 72, 73, 74, 92, 93;
    at Spicheren, 116;
    fears being turned, 118, 124;
    has three divisions within nine miles, 129;
    to protect Frossard, 134, 138, 140;
    promoted over six Marshals, 145, 146;
    takes command, 147;
    head-quarters at Borny, 148;
    unable to retreat over Moselle, protects retreat, 149;
    slightly hurt at Colombey-Nouilly, 157;
    retreat of Army, 159–168;
    roused by cannonade, 171;
    at Vionville, 175, 176, 177, 180, 185;
    at Gravelotte, 188;
    motives examined, 192;
    military theory, 193;
    retires to strong position, 193;
    misjudgment of, 196;
    battle of Gravelotte and retreat on Metz, 199–227;
    incapable of retrieving previous errors, 228;
    suspicions against, not justified, 229, 230;
    leaves MacMahon free to act, 239;
    anxiety to relieve, 240;
    his fatal despatch, 241, 242, 252, 253;
    in Metz, 276–278, 281, 282.

  Bazeilles, village, 287;
    terrible combats in, 293–306.

  Beaumont, 251, 257;
    5th Corps at, 261;
    Failly reaches, 263–266;
    Failly surprised at, 267–271;
    retreat with running fight, 273;
    Germans in front of, 274.

  Beauclair, village, 258, 262.

  Beaufort, 262.

  Belgian frontier, the, 245;
    French Army pressed against, 285, 292, 295, 296, 297.

  Belgium, French, and Prussian proposals, 22;
    French to be followed into, if not disarmed, 286, 297.

  Belfort, 62, 64, 84, 93, 235, 236;
    fortress untaken, Sept. 1st, 283.

  Bellecroix, 141, 152, 160.

  Belval, 261, 262, 267.

  Benedetti, M. de, French Ambassador, and Bismarck, 10, 12, 19, 20, 21;
    goes to Ems, 42;
    interviews with King, 44–48.

  Bennigsen, Herr von, asks question about Luxemburg, 26.

  Berlin, 1, 2, 3;
    political conflict in, 6, 8;
    Council in, 9, 12;
    King and Bismarck return to, 13;
    King reaches, 52;
    head-quarters still at, 69.

  Bernecourt, 189.

  Beust, Count von, Saxon Minister, makes proposals, 11;
    as Austrian Chancellor, 33.

  Bibesco, Prince Georges, cited, 62;
    about Douay, 258;
    Cuirassiers on flooded bridge, 274, 311;
    description of Sedan, 321.

  Bismarck, Count Otto von, chosen to advise the King, 3;
    experience at St. Petersburg, 4;
    dealings with Prussian Parliament, 4;
    and Polish Insurrection, 1864, 8;
    Convention of Gastein, 8;
    and Parliament, 8;
    and Austrian protection, 9;
    and Benedetti, 10;
    Nikolsburg, secret military treaties with S. German States, 14, 15;
    foundation of German Unity, 16;
    view of Napoleon III., 17, 18;
    and Benedetti’s demand for left bank of Rhine, 20, 21;
    and Belgium, 22;
    and Luxemburg, 25;
    prints Bavarian secret treaty, 25;
    answers Bennigsen, 26;
    retrospect on Luxemburg question, 29, 30;
    with Moltke in Paris, 1867, 32;
    utilizes Salzburg meeting to rouse German feeling, 34, 35;
    desires to avoid war, 37;
    publishes account of Ems meeting, 47;
    meets King William at railway, 52;
    saying to Benedetti on Napoleon’s dynasty, 134;
    on King’s staff at Malmaison, 214;
    seen by Dr. Russell at Bar le Duc, 255, 256;
    former hunting in Ardennes, 266;
    sends to German Minister at Brussels, 285;
    described by Russell, 322;
    influence on terms of settlement, 327–330;
    meeting with Emperor, 331, 332.

  Bismarck, Counts Herbert and William, 183.

  Bitsche, fortress, commanding pass in the Vosges, 67, 70, 76, 93, 96,
      97, 99, 114, 115, 116, 143;
    still untaken Sept. 1st, 283.

  Blumenthal, General von, at Woerth battle, 115, 234, 248;
    carries Chantrenne farm, 200;
    at Bar le Duc, in favour of northern march, 254, 255;
    forecasts French fate, 255;
    at conference of Chémery, 295;
    with Crown Prince at Sedan, 322, 326.

  Bois Chevalier, 300.

  Bois les Dames, De Failly goes to, 259.

  Bois de la Cusse, 195;
    Hessians attack through, 202, 206;
    fighting in, 219, 221.

  Bois de la Garenne, 295, 306;
    wandering battalions in, 312.

  Bois de Genivaux, French in, 194, 196;
    German attack on, 205;
    French in, 206, 207, 211, 214.

  Bois des Ognons (Vionville), 177, 185.

  Bois de Vaux, 193, 194, 204;
    attack from feared, 211, 218;
    and forest of Jaumont, tract between, 228.

  Bois de Vionville, 169, 171, 173.

  Bois St. Arnould, 169, 171.

  Bonie, Colonel, 313.

  Bonnemain’s, General de, cavalry charge at Woerth, 112;
    cavalry at Sedan, 296;
    appeal to, by Ducrot, 313.

  Bonnemain’s brigade to Les Grands Armoises, 258;
    to Raucourt, 261.

  Bonnemain’s division, 249, 251;
    Cuirassiers crossing Meuse, 274.

  Bordas, General, 249.

  Bordes, Fort des (Metz), 150; 152.

  Borny, 148, 149, 150, 152, 153, 155, 158, 160, 191.

  Bose, General von, 104;
    at Woerth, 110, 111, 113.

  Boucheporn, 79.

  Boulay, 139.

  Boult-aux-Bois, 258, 259.

  Bouillon, road to, northern exit from Sedan, 296, 306.

  Bourbaki, General de, at Vionville, 185;
    at Gravelotte, 214, 221, 223, 224, 225.

  Bouzonville, 79.

  Brahaut’s, General de, Cavalry, 234, 256, 262.

  Brandenburg, Infantry at Vionville, 174, 179.

  Bredow, General von, 163, 164;
    at Vionville, his brilliant Cavalry charge, 178;
    his brigade, 180.

  Brême d’or, farmhouse, Germans take, 126.

  Brieulles sur Bar, 251, 256.

  Briey, 166, 187;
    road to, 195;
    Germans on roads by, 240, 246.

  Brincourt, General, brigade of Guards at Colombey, 153;
    brigade, 215.

  Bruch-Mühle, 101, 102.

  Bruville, 184;
    French position after Vionville, 186;
    outposts, 190.

  Buchy, 143, 155.

  Buddenbrock, General von, captures Vionville, 173.

  Budritzky’s troops, 221.

  Bülow, General von, with batteries at Vionville, 172.

  Busch, Dr. Moritz, cited, on Sedan, 321, 323;
    on Bismarck and the Emperor, 331, 333.

  Buzancy, 245;
    French in, 248, 249, 250;
    German and French Cavalry skirmish, 256, 257, 259, 260, 264;
    King William and staff watch Beaumont fight from, 269;
    German head-quarters, 291.

  Buxières, village, 171, 173.

  Cadenbronn, 117.

  Cambriels, infantry commander at Beaumont,
      ordered back by MacMahon, 270.

  Camp de Misère, le, in the loop of Meuse, 336.

  Canrobert, Marshal, 68, 93;
    at Chalons, 134, 135, 145;
    on the Moselle, 148;
    over Moselle, 149, 153;
    halted at Rezonville, 161;
    position before Vionville, 169;
    his brigade recedes, 174;
    recapture of Vionville and Flavigny, 177;
    intrenching tools left at Chalons, 196;
    evidence on patrols, Bazaine trial, 199;
    his phrase about German “_tirailleurs d’artillerie_,” 201;
    his cannon and infantry, 203;
    extreme French right, 207;
    outposts discovered, 210;
    borrows from Ladmirault, 215;
    looks for help from Bazaine, 223, 224;
    retreat, 225;
    to Metz, 226;
    commands _Mobiles_, 236, 237, 278;
    at Noisseville, 280, 281, 300.

  Canrobert’s Corps, 141;
    at Vionville, 180;
    6th Corps, 195;
    Cavalry, 233, 235.

  Capitulation of Sedan, the text drawn up by
      Head-Quarter Staff (German), 330.

  Carignan, road to, eastern way out of Sedan, 296, 297;
    Emperor vanishes from, 287;
    Guard cavalry take, 291, 301, 303;
    Wimpffen proposes to retreat on, 315.

  Carling, Steinmetz at, 139.

  Castagny, General de, misled (Spicheren), 129;
    did his best but was too late, 130;
    slightly hurt at Colombey-Nouilly, 157;
    at Vernéville, 161.

  Castelnau, Count, at Donchery, 326;
    interposes, 329;
    with Emperor, 331.

  Causes of the war, summary of, 52, 53, 54.

  Cavalry combat at Mars la Tour, 183, 184.

  Cavalry, French, its traditions, charge at Woerth, 108;
    movements of, 249;
    positions at Sedan, 296;
    charge at Sedan, 313, 314, 315.

  Cavalry, German, over the Saar, 118;
    at work, 139, 140, 141;
    watchfulness of, 150;
    activity beyond Moselle, 163, 164, 165;
    movements, 247, 248, 250, 256, 257;
    value of cavalry, 259;
    close on French rear, 263;
    operations of, 233, 234, 291.

  Cazal, 310;
    defended by Liébert, 315, 316;
    Germans in, 317.

  Cerçay, M. Router’s château of, papers found in, 21.

  Chagny, 251, 257.

  Chalons, reserve at, 64;
    Canrobert still at, 93, 134, 135;
    MacMahon and subordinates retire on, 136, 141, 143, 144;
    railway to, 189;
    roads towards, 192;
    French Army driven to, 230, 232, 233;
    camp at, 234, 235, 236;
    new army, dangers of, 240, 244, 245;
    camp, 247;
    army of, 264.

  Chamber, the French, sanctions war, 15;
    speeches in, 246.

  Chambière, Isle, 160, 278, 279.

  Champenois, farm, garrisoned, 200, 202, 207;
    stormed and taken, 211.

  Changarnier, General, remarks on Bazaine’s reported words, 228.

  Chantrenne, farm, musketry from, carried, 200;
    Germans in, 202, 205, 207.

  Charles, Prince Frederick, of Prussia, commanding Second Army, 69;
    change of orders, 70;
    on the march, 78, 79;
    158, 165;
    at Vionville, 170, 171;
    arrives from Pont à Mousson, 179, 180;
    and Voigts-Rhetz at Flavigny, 182;
    188, 190;
    general order issued to, 197;
    instructs Manstein, 198;
    rides to sound of battle at Gravelotte, 202, 203, 207, 219;
    in command of investing Army, 231;
    intercepts letter, 244;
    278, 281.

  Charles of Lorraine, Prince, in Prague, 229.

  Charmes, 233.

  Chassepot rifle, effect at Mentana, 36.

  Château d’Aubigny, 151, 152, 280.

  Château de Bellevue, German head-quarters, Emperor at,
      Capitulation signed at, 335.

  Château Salins, 140, 143.

  Châtel St. Germain, 161;
    deep defile, 195;
    Guard at, 207.

  Chaumont, 233;
    railway station books, 234, 236.

  Chémery, village, 143;
    conference of Moltke and Generals, 295.

  Chevreau, M. de, Minister of Interior, 233, 238.

  Chieulles and Vany, 280, 281.

  Chiers, the, 275, 287;
    bridges on, 292;
    passage over, 294.

  Cissey, General de, at Colombey, 153, 155;
    Vionville, 181;
    brigades, 182;
    Gravelotte, 220.

  Clérambault, General de, at Vionville, 184.

  Clermont in Argonne, 232, 254.

  Cochery, M., 43.

  Coffinières, General, Governor of Metz, 147, 148.

  Cologne Gazette, Ems telegram published in, 47, 48.

  Colombey, village, 150–157, 278.

  Colombey-Nouilly, battle of, 150, 152–159;
    with Vionville, and Gravelotte, battles, consequences of, 229.

  Commercy, 232;
    important French despatches captured, 233.

  Conference project, Napoleon’s, 11, 12.

  Conflans, 159, 164, 166, 191.

  Conseil-Dumesnil, General, at Woerth, 99;
    his men, 106;
    his division, 266, 271.

  Contenson, Colonel, killed in charge at Mouzon, 273.

  Convention of Gastein, defined by Bismarck, 8.

  Courcelles, 117;
    Chaussy, 162;
    Sur Nied, 162, 165.

  Craushaar’s brigade, 211.

  Crimean War, effect on relations of Russia and Prussia, 2.

  Crown Prince of Prussia, Frederick William, commands Third Army, 69;
    at Spires, 70;
    leads advance, 76, 77;
    at the Klingbach, 79;
    on the Lauter, 84;
    attacks Wissembourg, 86;
    checks pursuit, 89;
    position after, 91;
    before Woerth, 96, 99;
    August 6th, 103, 104, 115;
    139, 159, 232, 241;
    his Cavalry near the Aube, 247;
    at Bar le Duc, 254, 255;
    to Ste. Menehould, 259;
    ordered to attack at Sedan, 285;
    his operations, 292;
    at Chémery, 294, 295, 297;
    directs troops to Mézières road, 307;
    his officers described by Russell, 322;
    conference with King, 323.

  Custines, village, 158.

  Czar of Russia, the, more than friendly, 16;
    his Eastern designs, 17.

  Daigny, bridge at, over Givonne, 293;
    Germans fall back at, 304;
    succeed at, 305.

  Damvillers, 246, 256;
    plan of abandoned, 257.

  David, M. Jérôme, 49, 81.

  Decaen, General, commanding 3rd Corps, 136;
    at French Centre, 148–151;
    his four divisions at Colombey, 153;
    mortally wounded, 157.

  Declaration of War, 1, 52.

  Delme, 143.

  Despatches, important French, captured, 233.

  Diet of Frankfort, 12.

  Dieulouard, 141, 142, 143, 158, 163, 164, 189.

  Doering, Major-General von, at Spicheren, 121;
    killed at Vionville, 173.

  Dombasle, 232, 254, 256.

  Dom le Mesnil, 295, 307.

  Donchery, failure to blow up bridge at, 289;
    Germans prepare to pass Meuse at, 290, 293, 295, 300;
    bridge, 307;
    meeting of generals at, scene, 326, 327–330, 331, 336.

  Doncourt, 177;
    hills, 180.

  Douay, General Abel, divisional commander, 84, 85;
    killed at Wissembourg, 86, 87, 88.

  Douay, General Félix, Chief of 7th Corps, 68, 131, 144;
    movements of, 249, 250;
    ordered to move on the Meuse, 258;
    to cross it, “_coúte que coúte_,” 271, 274, 276;
    occupies Floing and Illy, 290;
    shelled, 308, 309;
    Wimpffen and, 311, 312, 313, 316;
    and the Capitulation, 319.

  Douzy, village, Ducrot’s corps at, 286, 287;
    Saxons pass, 291;
    and hold bridge, 292.

  Drouyn de Lhuys, M., Foreign Minister, 16‒20.

  Ducrot, General, divisional commander, 84;
    at Woerth, 98, 99, 106, 110;
    begins to retire, 113;
    complains of scarcity, 243;
    Emperor in camp of, 286;
    urges Emperor to go to Sedan, 287;
    fired into, 291;
    holds the Givonne, 296;
    takes command of Army, 300;
    superseded by Wimpffen, 301, 302;
    operations, 303, 304;
    disputes, 311, 312;
    appeal to cavalry, 313, 315, 316;
    his description of interior of Sedan, 319;
    altercation with Wimpffen, 316, 317, 325.

  Dumont, General, division commander of Douay’s corps, 144;
    sent after Bordas, 250;
    at Beaumont, 271.

  Dun, on the Meuse, 247, 257, 259, 262.

  Dürrenbach, 107.

  Duvernois, Clement, 49, 81.

  Eberbach, village, 98, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110;
    stream, 107, 110.

  Elbe Duchies, the, taken from the Dane, 7.

  Elsasshausen, French right, 98, 106, 107;
    German attack on, 110, 111;
    set on fire, 112.

  Emperor. _See_ Napoleon.

  Empress of the French, Eugénie, fatal conduct in politics, 81;
    made Regent, 137, 235–239;
    Napoleon’s telegram, 335.

  England, irritated by Mexican adventure, 32.

  Epinal, 131.

  Erize la Petite, 254.

  Etain, 165, 246.

  Failly, de, General, commander of 5th Corps, 61, 73;
    at Saarbrück, 74, 92;
    fluctuating, 96, 97;
    joins MacMahon after Woerth, 116;
    Spicheren, 117;
    halts, 131;
    to Nancy, 134;
    counter-ordered, 135, 138, 144;
    troops, 233;
    in twenty trains, 234;
    movements, 256, 258, 259;
    MacMahon’s despatches to, captured, 260, 261;
    action at Nouart, 262, 263;
    in the Ardennes, 266;
    camp at Beaumont attacked, 268;
    repels attack and retires, 269, 270, 273;
    285, 288.

  Failly, village, 278, 279, 280, 281.

  Faulquemont, 139;
    Emperor visited by Bazaine at, 140.

  Faure, General, 252, 319;
    at Donchery, 326.

  Favre, M. Jules, 52, 81.

  Fenestrange, 144.

  Flanville, 280, 281.

  Flavigny (Vionville), 171, 173;
    taken by Germans, 174, 176.

  Fleigneux, 306, 307, 309.

  Flize, Würtembergers engage Vinoy’s outposts at, 293, 295.

  Floing, north-west face of French position, at Sedan, 290, 296;
    Germans in, 308, 309, 313.

  Forbach, 79, 94, 117, 118, 119, 122, 123;
      128, 129, 130, 137, 138, 139.

  Forbacherberg, 126, 127.

  Forton, General de, 163;
    falls back on Vionville, 164, 168, 169;
    want of patrols, 171;
    returns cavalry charge, 178.

  France, General de, 166, 183.

  François, General von, at Spicheren, 122, 124.

  Fransecky, General von, at Gravelotte, 204, 217.

  Francheval, 287, 291, 300, 306.

  Frederick II., the Great, his Manstein, 199;
    compared, 229.

  Frederick William IV., 2.

  French Court, the, projects of, 21.

  French, the, propose to move, 147;
    unable to cross Moselle, 148, 149;
    retreat after Colombey, 159;
    surprised by artillery (Vionville), 170;
    advance, 214;
    counter-stroke at Floing, 310.

  French prisoners sent to Germany, 336.

  French Generals, examples of two fatal errors, 147;
    meeting to consider Capitulation, 324, 325.

  Frénois, German battery in, fires on Vinoy, 289;
    batteries at, alarm French railway officials, 292;
    batteries on, to give signal to renew, 323, 324.

  Fresne, 165.

  Froeschwiller, MacMahon’s position, 98, 102, 106, 107;
    road to, 110; 112;
    Raoult wounded at, 113;
    captured, 114.

  Frossard, General, at Saarbrück, 73, 74, 75;
    takes position at Forbach, 93, 94;
    on the Saar, 116–118;
    disposition of troops, 120;
    impressed, 123, 126;
    retires, 128, 129, 130, 131, 134;
    crosses Moselle, 148, 149, 153;
    at Rezonville, 161;
    failure of patrols, 168;
    at Vionville, 169;
    retreat, 175, 176;
    field-works, 192, 195, 196;
    outposts begin, Gravelotte, 197, 200;
    strong position, 206–217;
    reserves, 226;
    at Noisseville, 279.

  Frossard’s Corps, 159, 170, 171, 185, 194.

  Furia Francese, 314.

  Galgenberg, the (Spicheren), 120.

  Galliffet, General de, charges at St. Menges, 308, 309;
    charges with Chasseurs d’Afrique, 313.

  Gambetta, M., speaks against war, 51, 81.

  Garenne, the, 315.

  Gayl, General von, turns Aymard out of Servigny, 280.

  German military system considered—its risks, 97;
    mobilization—Prussian, 56, 57;
    S. German, 58.

  Germans, movements of about Sedan, 290–295, 310.

  German unity, foundation of, 14, 16.

  General Staff, the Prussian, brain of the Army, 5.

  Germonville, 256.

  Gersdorf, Lieut.-Gen. von, 307.

  George of Saxony, Prince, sent down the Orne, 208;
    ordered to sweep round French right, 211.

  Giffert Wald, the (Spicheren), 123–129.

  Girard, General, killed in cavalry charge, 315.

  Girardin, M. St. Marc, estimate of Napoleon, 18.

  Givodeau, Wood of, 270.

  Givonne, the stream, 287, 293, 295;
    held by Lebrun’s and Ducrot’s corps, 296;
    battle on the, 298–304;
    in German hands, 310, 315–317.

  Givonne, Fond de, and village, 295, 306–311.

  Glablenz, Austrian Field-Marshal in Holstein, 12.

  Glümer, Lieut.-General von, at Colombey, 153.

  Gneisenau, Major-Gen. von, 74, 75, 76;
    his brigade failed to surprise Thionville, 158, 159;
    his brigade sent on by Goeben, 212.

  Gnügge, Captain, his battery at St. Hubert, 213.

  Goeben, General von, at Spicheren, supports Kameke, 121;
    takes command, sends in reserves, 125;
    at Gravelotte, attacks to employ French left, 205;
    Steinmetz talks to, 212.

  Goersdorf, 104.

  Golz, Major-General Baron von, 129;
    attacks French retreat, and begins Colombey-Nouilly battle, 150;
    without orders, 152, 154, 155;
    215, 218, 278.

  Gondrecourt, General, 184, 225;
    village, 232.

  Gortschakoff, Prince, and the Treaty of Paris, 36.

  Gorze, village, 169, 171, 177, 179, 185, 190.

  Gothard, St., railway, a menace to France, 40.

  Govone, General, Italian envoy to Berlin, 10, 11.

  Goze, General, 91.

  Gramont, Duc de, Minister for Foreign Affairs,
      sends Benedetti to Ems, 42;
    speech in Chamber, 43;
    presses demands, 45;
    46, 53, 54.

  Gramont, General de, 170, 178.

  Grand Pré, village, 243, 247, 248, 249, 250, 256, 264.

  Granville, Lord, attempts at compromise, 47.

  Gravelotte, French Army directed towards, 159;
    169, 171, 177, 191;
    battle-field described, 193, 194, 195;
    French position, 196, 199;
    204, 206;
    German position, 206;
    Goeben and Steinmetz at, 212;
    darkness ends fight at St. Hubert, 217;
    course of battle, 218–223;
    numbers and losses on both sides, 226, 227;

  Gravelotte, Bazaine’s account of, 241.

  Gravelotte, defile, road across, 212, 213.

  Gravelotte, road from, to Verdun, 168, 169;
    road out of Metz, 159.

  Gravelotte battle, various names for, 228.

  Great Staff, German, leaves Berlin with King, 70;
    at Mainz, 77;
    142, 188;
    surprised at MacMahon’s eastward march, 244.

  Grenier, General, his division, 149;
    at Colombey, 153, 154;
    at Vionville, 180, 181.

  Greyère, farm, 181, 185, 186.

  Grigy, 155.

  Grimont, farm, 151;
    Bazaine consults generals at, 277.

  Grimont, Bois de, 279.

  Grouchy, Le Capitaine Marquis de, despatches captured, 260.

  Grossbliedersdorf, 79.

  Guard, French, 215.

  Guard, Prussian, and Saxon at Gravelotte, 209–227.

  Guard, losses at St. Privat, 227.

  Gueblange, 139.

  Gunstett, Uhlans cross Sauer at, 91;
    (Woerth), 100, 103, 106, 107, 109.

  Habonville, 195, 202, 203, 206;
    Guard at, 208, 210.

  Hagenau, 84, 85, 89, 100, 115.

  Ham, 79.

  Hanover, King of, with Austria and the Bund, 9, 13.

  Han sur Nied, 163.

  Hapsburg-Lorraine, House of, 161.

  Harricourt, 258.

  Harskirchen, 139.

  Hartmann, General Ritter von, at Woerth, 100, 102, 105, 106, 112;
    cavalry, 212.

  Hasse, Captain, Battery at St Hubert, 213.

  Hatzfeldt, Count, 323.

  Heiltz l’Evêque, 232.

  Hellimer, 139.

  Helmuth, Captain, 272, 273.

  Helvig, Captain Hugo, on French position, 99.

  Henry, Prince, Governor of Luxemburg, 24.

  Herny, 143;
    King and Staff at, 162.

  Hesse Darmstadt, included in the Prussian military system, 14.

  Hesse, Prince Louis of, Lieut.-General commanding
      Hessian division, 72;
    at Vionville, 186;
    holds Bois de la Cusse, 202;
    at Noisseville, 280.

  Hesse, Grand Duke of, 72.

  Hessians at Amanvillers, 220, 221.

  Hochwald, 100, 113.

  Hohenzollern, Candidature of Prince Leopold of,
      for the crown of Spain, 41, 42;
    withdrawn, 45.

  Holland, King of, discloses the designs on Luxemburg, 25.

  Holstein-Schleswig, 7.

  Hungary and Austria, 10.

  House of Belgian weaver, meeting of Napoleon and Bismarck, 332.

  House of Commons, English, averse to war, 7.

  Iges, peninsula on the Meuse, 295.

  Illy, village, 287, 308, 312, 313.

  Illy, Calvaire d’, 290;
    French position, 295, 296, 306, 308, 310, 312;
    Germans reach, 313.

  Ingweiler, 115.

  Investment of Bazaine, troops for, 230.

  Iron Cross, The Order of the, restored, 70.

  Isle Chambière, Ladmirault crossing at, 160.

  Italian Kingdom created, 6.

  Italy, Victor Emmanuel, King of, Napoleon appeals to, 160.

  Jägers save railway viaduct, 294.

  Jarny and Conflans, sounds of battle, 171;
    road to, 197, 207.

  Jaumont, Péchot retires to forest of, 224.

  Jerusalem, farm, 208.

  Joinville, 236.

  Jolivet’s brigade, 120;
    at Spicheren, 122;
    at Vionville, 172, 176.

  Juniville, 243.

  Jurée, brook, 169, 177.

  Jussy, village on Moselle, 195.

  Kaiserslautern, 68, 76, 77, 79, 95.

  Kameke, Lieut.-General von, at Spicheren, 121, 122, 124;
    with Steinmetz, 191, 192.

  Kedange, 277.

  Kehl, bridge of, broken, 70.

  Kirchbach, General von, 104, 105, 106, 113;
    at Sedan, 307.

  Kinglake, Mr., character of Napoleon, 133.

  Kraatz, General von, at Vionville, 180, 181.

  Kummer, General von, Landwehr reserve, 158, 230.

  La Besace, village, 258, 261, 271, 274.

  Ladmirault, General de, 93;
    at Spicheren, 116–118, 134;
    at Colombey, 148–162;
    at Vionville, 180, 181, 184, 185;
    at Gravelotte, 194, 215, 223;
    at Noisseville, 278, 279.

  Ladmirault’s Corps, 140, 177, 183, 199, 225, 226.

  La Folie, farm, 194, 198, 200, 202, 207, 217, 225.

  Lafont de Villiers, General, 173.

  Laheycourt, 232.

  Landstuhl, 95.

  Langensalza, Battle of, 13.

  La Moncelle, Saxons seize, 299, 300, 302;
    brilliant French attack, 305;
    Emperor near, 311.

  Lapasset, General, at Saarguemines, 91;
    brigade at Vionville, 171, 177, 185;
    at St. Ruffine, 195;
    contest with Golz, 215.

  La Planchette, farm, 152.

  Laquenexy, 281.

  Lartigue, General, 84, 99;
    at Woerth, 105–113;
    at Sedan, 304, 305.

  La Thibaudine, farm, 271.

  Lauter, and Lauterbourg, lines of, 76, 77;
    86, 87.

  Lauvalliers, 151, 152, 154, 156.

  La Vallières, stream, 151.

  Laveaucoupet, General, at Spicheren, 120, 122, 128;
    to be placed in Metz and Verdun, 137.

  La Viré farm, Prince Augustus at, 306.

  Lebach, 73, 75, 79, 95.

  Lebœuf, Marshal, Chief of the Staff, 49–50, 59–62;
    at Metz, 92, 116;
    unfitness for command, 117;
    136, 145, 161;
    at Vionville, 169, 171, 177, 180, 181;
    at Gravelotte, 205, 211, 215, 217, 225, 226;
    withdrawn from Noisseville, 279, 281.

  Lebœuf’s Corps, 185, 194, 196.

  Lebrun, General, 235, 243, 261, 270;
    retreat on Sedan, 286, 287, 288–294;
    at Bazeilles, 296–299, 301, 302;
    at Givonne, 304, 311;
    condemns Wimpffen’s efforts, 316, 317;
    arrangements for Capitulation, 318, 319.

  Lebrun’s Corps, 291, 293.

  Le Chesne-Populeux, 243, 249;
    MacMahon, head-quarters, 251, 257, 258;
    263, 266.

  Lee, General Robert, his saying on war, 223.

  Legrand, General, at Mars la Tour, 183, 184.

  Lehmann, Colonel, at Tronville, 176, 177.

  Leipzig, farm, 194, 196, 207.

  Lémoncourt, 143.

  Le Mont de Brune, 272, 273.

  L’Envie, farm, 202, 207.

  Lespart, General Guyot de, 91;
    at Woerth, 141, 262.

  Les Etangs, 140, 142, 149.

  Lessy, cross roads by, 159, 161.

  Létanne, bridge constructed at, 291.

  “Le Temps,” paragraph in, 246.

  L’Hériller and Pellé’s Division, 302.

  Liébert, General, 313, 315, 316.

  Ligny, 232;
    Great Staff and Crown Prince at, 245.

  Loftus, Lord Augustus, 46.

  Longeville, 241;
    camp, 161.

  Longuyon, 230.

  Longstreet, General (United States), 255.

  Lorencez, General de, at Colombey-Nouilly, 153, 155, 157, 162.

  Lunéville, 144, 159, 162.

  Luxemburg, negotiations, and question, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.

  Lavalette, Napoleon’s letter to, 20.

  Mack, General, at Ulm, 229.

  MacMahon, Marshal, assembling 1st Corps near Strasburg, 68;
    scattered condition of command, 84, 85;
    at Reichshofen, 89–99;
    at Woerth, 109, 112, 114;
    back on Sarrebourg, 116;
    ordered to Chalons, 134, 135, 138, 144;
    still at large, 231;
    at Rhetel, 234;
    at Chalons, 236, 237;
    receives command of army, 238;
    moves army to Reims, 240;
    on the Aisne, 248;
    turns from Stenay to Mouzon, 259;
    will pass the Meuse, 265;
    near Beaumont, 270, 271, 276, 284;
    directs retreat on Sedan, 286, 287;
    relations to the Emperor, 288;
    account of conduct, 297;
    wounded, gives up command, 300;
    wound a great misfortune, 303.

  Magdeburg and Altmark regiments, losses, 178, 179.

  Mainz, 65, 67, 69, 72, 77, 92.

  Malancourt, 223, 281.

  Malmaison, 177.

  Malroy on Moselle, 278.

  Manèque, General, mortally wounded at Noisseville, 281.

  Mance, brook, 177, 191, 193, 194, 195;
    gully, 205;
    eastern, 207;
    ravine, 214, 216, 217.

  Manstein, General von, at Gravelotte, 198–204, 219, 220;
    crosses Moselle, 280.

  Manteuffel, General Baron von, at Berlin Council, 10;
    makes Austrians retreat beyond Elbe, 12;
    precaution, 150;
    joins in at Colombey-Nouilly, 153, 155;
    at Noisseville, 278, 280.

  Marbache, 158;
    -Custines, 163, 189.

  Margueritte, General, 141, 235, 243, 249, 251, 258, 260,
      261, 275, 287;
    his cavalry, 296, 300, 307;
    on the Calvaire d’Illy, 308, 309;
    mortally wounded, 313.

  Marines, French, in Bazeilles, 298, 305.

  Marsal, 148, 232.

  Marshals of France, three caged in Metz, 231.
    _See_ Bazaine, Canrobert, Lebœuf.

  Mars la Tour, French Army directed on, 159, 163, 164;
    road from Gravelotte to Verdun passes, 168;
    battle of Vionville, 170;
    ravine, 181;
    German Cavalry at, 183;
    German guns hold on near, 183;
    cavalry at, 186;
    Germans occupy, 191, 197.

  Mattstal, 98, 100, 102.

  Maxau on the Rhine, 64.

  Ménil sur Saulx, letters seized by German cavalry at, 233.

  Mensdorff, Count, Austrian Foreign Minister, 9.

  Mercy le Haut, or Mercy les Metz, 151, 278.

  Metman, General, at Spicheren, 129, 130;
    60, 161;
    at Vionville, 177;
    leaves Rezonville, 191.

  Metz, 68, 76, 79, 82, 92, 93;
    defences incomplete, 94;
    disorder and consternation in, 131–135;
    entire army moves back on, 136;
    (Colombey battle), 151, 152;
    excitement in, 159;
    Bazaine’s army moves nearer to, 188;
    shutting up in, not thought of, 190;
    Bazaine’s theory about, 192;
    French Army by, 193, 195, 197;
    Steinmetz’s mistaken hope of driving French into, 212;
    magnetism of stronghold like, 229, 230;
    blockade of, 231, 239, 241, 242, 244–246;
    two corps sent back to, 257;
    army, 277;
    military situation about, 282;
    fortress, 283, 336.

  Metz, road from, to Strasburg, 67;
    from Mainz to, 67;
    road at Spicheren, 128;
    railway, 129;
    roads out of, 159;
    road to, 194;
    and Montmédy road closed, 292.

  Meurthe, valley of the, 144, 158, 232.

  Meuse, the, 134, 136, 171, 189, 232;
    MacMahon near, 234;
    crossing at Stenay, 242, 246;
    Verdun, 248, 249;
    MacMahon’s army ordered to, 253;
    Germans on, 256, 257, 260, 262;
    French Corps on left bank, 263, 270, 271, 273;
    dammed to fill Sedan ditches, 274;
    280, 285, 286, 289;
    passage at Mouzon held by Saxon Crown Prince, 292;
    pontoon over, 294; 295;
    loop of, 296;
    roads near, 307.

  Mexico expedition, 7.

  Mey, village (Colombey-Nouilly), 151–156.

  Mézières, route for Chalons, 242;
    MacMahon to retreat on, 251–253, 255, 257;
    French to be cut off from, 286;
    retreat to, given up, 290, 295, 297, 301, 303;
    road, 307.

  Michel, General, unique telegram, 62;
    at Woerth, 107, 108;
    charges of his Cuirassiers, 109;
    cavalry, 296.

  Mitchell, M. Robert, 48, 50.

  _Mobiles_, unfurnished with munitions, 132;
    bad behaviour of, returned to Paris, 236;
    reasons for, 238.

  Mobilization, French, 59;
    defects and difficulties, 60–63.

  Mobilization, German, 2, 3, 57, 58, 59.

  Moltke, General Baron von, Chief of the Staff, 3;
    his work, 5, 6;
    at Berlin Council, 10;
    in 1868 frames plan of campaign in France, 37;
    remark on declaration of war, 52;
    plans, 65, 66;
    disposition after Saarbrück, 76–78;
    intentions before Woerth,96;
    caution, 138;
    prepared for French on right bank, 158;
    directs Second Army on Moselle, 162;
    memorable instructions, 165;
    judgment confirmed, 189, 190;
    at Flavigny, 191;
    orders on 17th, 197, 198;
    keeps back Steinmetz at Gravelotte, 204;
    his main object, 216;
    himself directs attack, 217;
    original design of battle, 218;
    estimate of Bazaine, 218;
    starts for Paris, 232, 234;
    Bazaine’s despatch, 242;
    arrangements to meet French move, 244–246, 254, 256, 257,
        259, 260, 264;
    sanctions bombardment of Strasburg, 283, 284;
    at Conference of Chémery, 295;
    quickens operations, 297;
    302, 307;
    with the King, looking on Sedan, described by Russell, 321;
    designated by King, suspends hostilities, 323;
    meets the French Generals at Donchery, 325–330;
    goes to King at Vendresse, 332.

  Montaigu, General, wounded and prisoner, 184.

  Montauban, General. _See_ Palikao, Comte de.

  Montaudon, General, 94;
    at Spicheren, 117, 129;
    at Colombey, 153, 155;
    at Vionville, 177;
    near Rezonville, 185.

  Montfaucon, 256, 257.

  Monthois, 264.

  Montigny la Grange, 195, 198;
    held by French, 225, 226.

  Montimont, 307.

  Montluisant, Colonel, 224, 225.

  Montmédy, 242, 246, 276, 277, 286.

  Montois, 223.

  Montoy, 151, 152, 154.

  Montpayroux, M. Guyot de, illustrates French feeling, 51.

  Monvillers Park, Bazeilles, 298;
    combats in, 299, 305, 306.

  Morsbronn, 106, 107.

  Moscow, farm, French position, 194, 205, 206, 207, 213;
    every attempt on, repulsed, 214;
    Lebœuf in, 217.

  Moselle, river, 92, 134, 135, 136, 139, 141;
    German advance on, 142;
    Borny on, 143, 144;
    French get over, 146, 147;
    in flood, 148, 149;
    Colombey, 150, 151, 153;
    possible French advance up right bank, 158;
    retreat on, 159;
    fog on, 161;
    Second Army sent over, 162, 163, 169;
    valley, 179;
    crossed at Marbache, 189, 190;
    near Ars, 193;
    below Metz, 194;
    crossed at Borny, 204;
    Germans on left bank of, 230, 231, 278, 280, 281.

  Mouzon, 260, 261, 263, 269, 270, 272;
    Cuirassiers charge at, 273;
    Germans at, 274;
    MacMahon at, 286;
    rout at, described to Emperor, 287;
    Germans take, 291.

  Moyœuvre, forest of, 218.

  Murat, Prince, followed by Redern, 164;
    his dragoons bolt, 170.

  Nancy, 134, 139;
    Uhlans ride into, 141, 144, 159, 163.

  Napoleon I., the Great, cavalry traditions of, 165;
    his genius required, 193;
    on competence of captains for large command, 229.

  Napoleon III., Louis, declares war on Prussia, 1;
    his policy and position in Europe previous to the war, 2–20;
    attempt on Luxemburg, 22, 23;
    Russian alliance, Paris exhibition, 31;
    death of Maximilian, 32;
    at Salzburg, 33, 34;
    suspects military treaties, 35;
    seeks allies, 36;
    fears for the dynasty, 49;
    resolves on war, 50;
    declares war, 52;
    head-quarters at Metz, 64, 72;
    takes command, 73;
    Saarbrück, 74;
    incapacity at Metz, 82, 92, 93;
    Spicheren, 116, 117;
    confusion, 132;
    character unaltered from 1836, 133, 134;
    despatch to Paris, 135;
    resigns command, 136;
    138, 140, 145;
    fails to press retreat over Moselle, 146, 147;
    at Longeville, 159;
    appeal to Austria and Italy, 160;
    at and after Gravelotte, 161, 162, 166, 167;
    and Lebœuf, 228;
    229, 231;
    at Chalons and Reims, 235–242;
    interview with MacMahon, 251;
    military judgment correct, 253;
    in Ducrot’s camp, 286, 287;
    refuses to retire to Sedan, yet goes, 287;
    enters Sedan, 288;
    refuses to leave, 289;
    and Des Sesmaisons, 290;
    notices retreat, 301;
    rides out early to see battle, sees MacMahon
      and goes under fire, 311;
    and Wimpffen, 316;
    and his generals, 317, 318;
    hopes to appeal to the King, 318;
    Capitulation arranged with generals, 319, 320;
    letter to King, 322;
    awaiting reply, 324;
    Wimpffen quarrels before him, 325;
    he surrenders, leaves Sedan, meets Bismarck, 331–333;
    meets King and Crown Prince, telegraphs to Empress, 335;
    departs for Wilhelmshöhe, hears of Paris Revolution, 337;
    reflections, 338.

  Napoleon, Louis, Prince Imperial, baptism of fire, 73, 74;
    with Emperor, 161, 166;
    at Chalons, 237;
    sent off, 239.

  Napoleon, Prince Jérôme, 41;
    with Emperor at Chalons, 236;
    supports Trochu, suggests abdication, 237.

  Needle gun, the, 7.

  Neehwiller, 98, 113, 114.

  Nehrdorff, General, withdraws Saxons, 210.

  Neufchâteau, 233.

  Neunkirchen, 79.

  Nice and Savoy ceded to France, 6.

  Nied, the French, 135;
    German, 136;
    140, 142, 143.

  Niederbronn, 70;
    (Woerth), 113, 114.

  Niederwald, the, 107, 108, 109, 111.

  Nikolsburg, Treaty of, 13, 14, 16.

  Noisseville, 154, 155, 156;
    battle of, 277–279;
    Manteuffel attacks, 280;
    contest for, 281.

  Nomény, 140.

  Nostitz, Count, at Donchery meeting, 326.

  Nouart, 256, 258–264, 267.

  Nouilly, 148, 151, 156.

  Novéant, 163, 177.

  Oches, 249, 260, 261, 263, 265;
    MacMahon at, 266;
    Crown Prince at, 269.

  Ollivier, M. Emile, pacific remarks, 43;
    thinks quarrel ended, 48;
    political position, prophetic words, 50;
    goes to war “_à cœur leger_,” 51;
    Ministry turned out, 137.

  Olly, Germans occupy, 309.

  Olozaga, Spanish Ambassador, 45.

  Orcet, Captain d’, and Donchery meeting, 326, 327, 328.

  Ornain, the river, 232, 284.

  Orne, the river, 193, 195, 208;
    cantonments on, 246.

  Operations, German and French, August 29th, 259, 260, 261.

  Palatinate, the, possible irruption into, 70.

  Pagny, 163.

  Palikao, Comte de, General, Montauban, 81, 137;
    made by Empress Minister of War, 235;
    collects new army, 235;
    telegram to, from Emperor, 239;
    views, 240, 242;
    responsible for disaster, 251;
    insists on help for Bazaine, 252, 253;
    utter ignorance of situation, 254, 276;
    and Wimpffen, 288, 324, 336.

  Pallières, General Martin des, 298.

  Pange, French position, 136, 140, 142, 143, 149, 152.

  Pape, Major-General von, 203;
    Guard prepared to attack St. Marie, 208, 209;
    at St. Marie, 219, 220;
    his Guards’ attack on St. Privat, 222.

  Paradol, Prévost, view of the war, and suicide, 54, 55.

  Paris, remonstrances from, 135;
    and Parisians, 146;
    army of the Rhine facing, 193;
    placed in state of defence, 233;
    fears of uncovering, 240;
    newspaper informs Moltke, 245;
    road to, 246;
    orders from, to MacMahon, 252, 253;
    ready for revolution, 285;
    Wimpffen at, 287.

  Parliament, Prussian, opposition to army reform, 4.

  Péchot, General, falls on Saxons, 210;
    “valiant officer” attempts to stop enemy, 224.

  Pellé, General, takes command on Douay’s death, 88;
    at Woerth, 99.

  Pestel, Colonel von, at Saarbrück, 73.

  Pfaffenwald, the, 125.

  Pfordten, von der, Bavarian Minister, signs secret treaty, 14.

  Phalsbourg, 115, 143, 144;
    French fortress untaken, 283.

  Pietri, M., telegraphs to Empress, 238.

  Pirmasens, 69, 77, 86.

  Plappeville, fort, 194;
    Guard at, 195;
    guns not heard at, 214, 215.

  Podbielski, General von, 245, 246;
    at conference of Cheméry, 295;
    with King William, 321;
    at Donchery meeting, 326.

  Point du Jour farm, 191, 194;
    quarries below, 205;
    burnt, 206, 207;
    Steinmetz hopes to capture, 212;
    repulses attack, 214;
    attempts to storm, 217.

  Poix, 156;
    German guns at, 279, 293.

  Pommérieux, 165.

  Pont à Mousson, 141, 142, 143;
    Prince Frederick Charles at, 158;
    163, 171;
    Royal head-quarters, 189;
    Moltke starts for, 197;
    Moltke at, 283.

  Porru au Bois, Prussian Guard in, 292.

  Possesse, 232.

  Pouilly, Germans at, 275;
    bridge constructed, 291.

  Preuil, General du, at Vionville, 175.

  Preuschdorf, 104.

  Provisions, French scarcity of, 243.

  Prussia, King of. _See_ William I.

  Prussian Army, now German, characteristics of, 5, 6;
    victories in Denmark with needle-gun, 7;
    augmented, 8;
    mobilizing, 11, 12;
    enters Austria, fights Sadowa, 13.

  Prusso-Italian Alliance, 10.

  Puttelange, Castagny marches to, 129;
    French generals assemble at, 130.

  Puxieux, 163, 164.

  Quarries of Amanvillers and St. Hubert, 192, 205, 217, 218.

  Quatre Champs, 258.

  Queleu, Fort, Metz, 141, 148.

  Railway, questions of control, Belgian, Luxemburg,
      and St. Gothard, 39, 40.

  Rastadt, 65, 92.

  Rations, in Sedan, sent away by mistake, 289.

  Rauch, Colonel von, at Flavigny, Hussars capture battery
    and surround Bazaine, 175.

  Raucourt, 271;
    Douay retires on, 265;
    attacked, 274;

  Raoult, General, 99, 106, 110, 113.

  Reconnaisances, French, inadequate, 167.

  Redern, General von, before Metz, 163;
    follows Murat, 164;
    at Flavigny, 178.

  Red Hill, Rotheberg, or Spur at Spicheren, 119, 120, 122;
    storming of, 124, 125, 126, 127;
    Spicheren road up, 128.

  Reichshofen, 84, 96;
    and Niederbronn, 100, 109, 112, 113, 114.

  Reille, General, 320, 325, 331.

  Reims, 234, 242, 244, 245, 246;
    3rd Army Cavalry in sight of, 247;
    249, 251.

  Remilly, 231, 260;
    disordered French retreat to, 272, 273;

  Remonville, 264.

  Reppertsberg, Spicheren, 120.

  Revigny les Vaches, Crown Prince’s head-quarters, 255.

  Rex, Colonel von, at Spicheren, 121;
    in Bois des Ognons, 185.

  Rezonville, 164;
    road from Gravelotte to Verdun through, 168, 169;
    (Vionville battle), 170, 171, 177, 179, 186;
    188, 190, 191, 197;
    2nd Corps at, 215, 242.

  Rheinbaben, Lieut.-General Baron von, at Spicheren, 119, 120;
    effective operations on Verdun road, 163;
    at Vionville, 170;
    begins battle with battery, 171;
    his work done, 172.

  Retonfay, 279.

  Rhetel, MacMahon’s army at, 243, 249.

  Rhine, the, and Moselle, 65;
    bridges and ferries destroyed, 70;

  Roman road, Vionville, 169, 171.

  Roncourt, high ground, French position, 194;
    open descent to, 195;
    limit of French right, 207, 208, 210, 211;
    Saxons at, 222, 223, 224.

  Roon, General von, made War Minister, 3;
    administrative measures, 5, 6;
    causes King to retire out of fire, 216;
    with King, 321.

  Rosseln, Von Golz marches from, 129.

  Rouher, M., 38, 49;
    goes to Emperor at Chalons, 240;
    suggests proclamation, 241.

  Rozérieulles village, 160;
    French reserves in, 194.

  Rupigny, 281.

  Russell, Dr. William, diary cited, description of Bismarck at
      Bar le Duc, 255;
    of Sedan and the King, 321;
    of Crown Prince, 322.

  Russell, Lord, Danish question, 7.

  Russia, 2, 4, 8, 11, 16.

  Saar, 76;
    French positions on, 92;
    German, 95, 118, 119;
    French, 136;
    138, 139;
    upper, 143, 144.

  Saarbourg, 116.

  Saarbrück, 70;
    affair at, 73, 77, 118, 119;
    road, 152.

  Saarlouis, 77, 136;
    road from, 152, 158, 230.

  Sachy, guard at, 292.

  Sadowa, battle of, 13, 14, 16.

  St. Ail, 195;
    German batteries at, 203;
    209, 210;
    and St. Marie, Prussian Infantry Guard, 219, 221.

  St. Avold, 79, 94, 117, 120;
    Bazaine at, 124, 129;
    Castagny called to, 130;
    138, 140, 143.

  St. Barbe, village and church tower, 151, 152, 153;
    ravine, 154, 156;
    277, 278, 279, 280.

  St. Dizier, 234.

  St. Germain, ravine, 214.

  St. Hilaire, 170, 182.

  St. Hubert, farm, above Gravelotte, narrow causeway by, 194;
    strong, 196;
    contest at, 205, 206, 207, 212;
    slopes near, 213;
    Germans hold, 214;
    last fights, 215, 216;
    in twilight, 217, 218.

  St. Julien, fort, 148;
    278, 279.

  St. Marcel, 169.

  St. Marie aux Chênes, Canrobert occupies, 195;
    German Guard advance on, 198, 202, 203;
    held by French, 206, 207;
    described, 208;
    attack on road through, 209;
    abandoned, 209;
    Saxon guns north of, 219;
    high road to, 221;
    General Pape at, sends out Guard, 222.

  St. Menehould, 232, 242, 251.

  St. Menges, 296, 301, 306;
    Germans occupy, 307, 308;
    and push on, 309, 310, 311.

  St. Mihiel, 240.

  St. Privat la Montagne, _see_ Gravelotte, 194–225.

  St. Quentin, Mount, fort, 160, 161, 194, 195;
    highest point of position, 196;

  St. Ruffine, 211, 215, 218.

  Salignac-Fenelon, General, 315.

  Salzburg, meeting of Austrian and French Emperors at, 33.

  Sansonnet, 161.

  Sarreguemines, Montaudon at, 117;
    118, 119;
    retreat on, 128, 129;
    137, 138.

  Sauer, stream, and Sulz, 100, 107.

  Saulny, 223;
    wood of, 224, 226.

  Saverne, 99, 112;
    retreat on, 114, 115, 116;
    railway tunnels west of, 144.

  Saxon 12th Corps, 267;
    at Beaumont fight, 269.

  Saxon horse cut off Lebrun’s baggage, 287.

  Saxon infantry at St. Marie, 210.

  Saxons in Daigny, 304, 305.

  Saxony, King of, in Pirna, cited, 229.

  Saxony, Prince Royal of (Crown Prince), at Gravelotte, 198;
    at Auboué, 207, 210;
    in command of Army of the Meuse, 230, 241;
    at Clermont in Argonne, 254;
    to cross Meuse, 260;
    early march to Beaumont, 264;
    to attack, 285;
    anticipates orders, 291;
    secures Chiers bridges, 292, 297.

  Saxony, Prince George of, 207, 208;
    holds French, 263.

  Schellendorf, Colonel Bronsart von, 320.

  Schlotheim, General von, 248.

  Schmidt, Captain, artillery feat, 127.

  Schultz, General, engineer, 284.

  Schwarzkoppen, General von, 181, 182.

  Schwerin, General von, 121.

  Sedan, 146, 234;
    Bazaine suggests retreat on, 242, 249;
    256, 266;
    occupation of, 272, 274–276;
    281, 286–289, 294;
    battle-field described, 295, 297;
    battle of, 298, 299, 300, 301, 302, 303;
    Emperor returns to, 311;
    final efforts, 316;
    end of battle, 317;
    condition of interior, 319;
    losses on both sides, 336.

  Seille, river, reached by patrols, 140;
    142, 148, 151, 158, 189.

  Selz, 85.

  Semuy, 249.

  Senuc, 250; 264.

  Sermaize, 232.

  Servigny, 148, 155, 279, 280.

  Sesmaisons, Captain, 289, 290.

  Seton, Captain, remarks on Steinmetz, 212.

  Sheridan, General, U.S., 322.

  Sierck, 70.

  Solferino, effect of French success, 6;
    Napoleon’s saying after, 318.

  Sommauthe, Bavarians in, 274.

  Sommerance, 264.

  Sourd, M. le, presents Declaration of War, 1, 52.

  Spachbach, 103, 107.

  Spicheren, Frossard takes post at, 94;
    French position, 116, 117, 118;
    battle-field, 119, 120;
    battle, 121–130, 137;
    temerity of German advance guard, 158.

  Spires, 70.

  Steinmetz, General von, commanding First Army, 68, 76–78, 95;
    characteristic speech of, 121;
    begins Spicheren battle, 122, 139, 142;
    advances, 149, 157;
    instructions from Moltke, 165, 191, 192, 197, 198;
    at Gravelotte, 204; 211–217, 278.

  Steinburg, Woerth, 115.

  Stenay, on the Meuse, MacMahon hopes to cross at, 242, 243;
    247, 256, 264, 268.

  Stephan, General von, 294.

  Stiring-Wendel, village (Spicheren), 120–124, 127–129.

  Stoffel, Colonel, 251, 252.

  Stonne, Emperor at, 253, 262;
    defiles leading to, 266;
    Germans in, 274.

  Strasburg, 66, 67, 131, 132, 143, 283;
    bombardment, 284;
    siege, 285.

  Stülpnagel, General von, at Spicheren, 121;
    at Vionville, 172, 173, 174.

  Suippe, river, 243.

  Sulz and Sauer, 96, 98.

  Tann-Rathsamhausen, General von der, his Bavarian troops,
      91, 100, 104;
    at Beaumont fight, 267, 269, 271;
    fires on Bazeilles, 293, 294;

  Teterchen, 139.

  Thiaucourt, 163, 164;
    cannonade heard at, 181.

  Thiers, M., speech against war, 51.

  Thionville, 131;
    German cuirassiers at, 141;
    230, 231, 245, 276.

  Tholey, 75, 76, 79.

  Tilliard, General, 315.

  _Tirailleurs d’artillerie_, 174;
    Canrobert’s phrase, 201.

  Tixier’s, General, division, Vionville, 180.

  Torcy, 272, 274, 296, 317.

  Toul, town and fortress, 135;
    governor of, summoned by Uhlans, 164, 189;
    siege of, 232, 283.

  Tourteron, 249, 293.

  Turenne, Vicomte de, born at Sedan, 321.

  Turnier, Colonel, 276.

  Treves, 65, 76, 93.

  Triaucourt, 232, 254.

  Trochu, General, proposition to Emperor, 237;
    governor of Paris, 238, 239.

  Tronville, village and woods, 169, 171, 173, 176, 177, 180–185.

  Uhrich, General, governor of Strasburg, 283, 284.

  Uhlans, 140, 141, 213, 232.

  Valabrègue, General, 169, 178.

  Valazé, General, at Spicheren, 120, 123;
    at Vionville, 172, 174.

  Vallières, brook, 278.

  Valmy, battle-field, 239.

  Varennes, 247, 254, 257.

  Varize, 149.

  Vassy, 233.

  Vassoigne, General, 298.

  Vauban, fortified Sedan, 321.

  Vaudemont, 233.

  Vautoux, 156.

  Verdun, 131, 159;
    road, 164, 165, 170, 176, 188–199, 193;
    Germans moving towards, 232;
    240, 241, 242;
    Napoleon’s despatch from, 276, 277;
    fortress untaken, 283.

  Vergé, General, holds Stiring, 126, 129;
    at Vionville, 171.

  Vernéville, 161, 169, 177, 188, 199–208.

  Verrières, Würtembergers at, 274, 293.

  Verviers, Emperor at, 337.

  Victor Emmanuel. _See_ Italy, King of.

  Vienne le Château, 257, 264.

  Villette, 310.

  Villemontrey, 270, 273.

  Villeneuve, General, 270, 272.

  Villers au Bois, 169.

  Villers-Cernay, 287, 300, 306.

  Villers below Mouzon, 266, 271, 273.

  Villers l’Orme, 156, 280.

  Ville sur Yron, 183.

  Vinoy, General, 253, 289, 290;
    and troops escape, 293; 336.

  Vionville, 164; 166;
    -Mars la Tour battle, 167–187;
    road towards, after battle, 190, 229.

  Vitry, 232, 233;
    cavalry capture stray French, 234, 241.

  Void, 232.

  Voigts-Rhetz, General von, commander of 10th Corps,
    comes up at Mars la Tour, 170, 182.

  Völkingen, outposts in contact, 78.

  Voncq, Germans take prisoners at, 263.

  Vosges, mountains, 66, 67;
    defiles of, open, 115, 116;
    131, 143.

  Vouziers, MacMahon’s army at, 234, 243, 245, 248, 250, 257, 259.

  Vrémy, 148, 279.

  Vrigne au Bois, 307.

  Wadern, remarkable march from, 127.

  Wadelincourt, 310.

  Walther, General von, begins attack at Woerth, 101.

  Warniforêt, hamlet, 271.

  Warren Wood, or Bois de la Garenne, 317.

  Wedell, General von, at Vionville, 182.

  Weise, Colonel von, 184.

  Werder, General von, at Woerth, 100, 104;
    bombards Strasburg, 283, 284.

  William I., King of Prussia, Regent in 1858, work and plans, 2, 3;
    military reform, 3, 4, 5;
    council in Berlin, 9, 10;
    Hohenzollern candidature, Benedetti at Ems, 42–45;
    leaves Ems, 46;
    mobilization, 52;
    restores Order of Iron Cross, 70;
    characteristic journey to Mainz, 72;
    headquarters at Herny, 158, 165;
    at Pont à Mousson, 189;
    joins Prince Frederick Charles, 190;
    his armies facing the Rhine, 193;
    on Flavigny heights, 197, 204;
    watches fight from Malmaison, 214;
    sanctions advance on Frossard, 215, 216;
    starts for Paris, 231, 232, 234;
    consulted, issues orders for grand right wheel, 246;
    Bar le Duc, 254;
    at Clermont, 255;
    Varennes, 259;
    Grand Pré, 264;
    and staff on hill near Buzancy, 269;
    orders to Crown Prince and Saxon Crown Prince, 285;
    at Sedan, 320, 321, 322, 323, 332;
    meets Napoleon, 335;
    greets troops, 336;
    hears of Paris Revolution, 338.

  Winterfeld, Captain von, 320.

  Wimpffen, General de, 1, 52;
    arrives at Sedan, 288, 296;
    takes command, 301, 302, 303, 307, 311, 312, 315–317;
    conduct during negotiations and Capitulation, 319, 325–335.

  Wiseppe, stream, 262.

  Wissembourg, 84, 85;
    battle, 86–90;
    road from Landau to, by Pirmasens, 67.

  Woerth, bridge broken, 91;
    French position, 96;
    battle, 101–114;
    consequences, 115, 116.

  Woippy, road out of Metz to, 159, 223.

  Woyna, General von, at Spicheren, 123, 126;
    at Colombey, 153.

  Würtemberg, Prince Augustus of, at Gravelotte, 199, 203;
    sends in Guard, 219, 220;
    at Givonne, 306, 308.

  Würtemberg joins Prussian military system, 14.

  Würtembergers, 254, 264.

  Xonville, 163.

  Yron, river, 183, 186.

  Yoncq, 271, 272.

  Zastrow, General von, at Spicheren, 121, 125;
    at Colombey, 153, 155, 157, 191, 192.

  Zieten hussars, 261.

  Zingler, Captain von, 334.

  Zouaves escaped to Paris, 304.





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  =ADDISON’S Works.= With the Notes of Bishop Hurd, Portrait, and 8
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  =ÆSCHYLUS, The Dramas of.= Translated into English Verse by Anna
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  =AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS. History of Rome= during the Reigns of
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  =APOLLONIUS RHODIUS. ‘The Argonautica.’= Translated by E. P. Coleridge,
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Transcriber's note:

There are several examples in the book of obsolete spelling such as
“tenour” instead of “tenor”.

The spelling of place-names is not always consistent. For example, both
“Wurtemburg” and “Würtemberg” appear in the book.

Apart from correcting a few obvious typographical errors, the original
spelling has not been changed.

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