Franco-Prussian War - Wikipedia
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A French mitrailleuse in the Bundeswehr Military History Museum The French Army consisted in peacetime of approximatelysoldiers, some of them regulars, others conscripts who until served the comparatively long period of seven years with the colours. However, following the " Seven Weeks War " between Prussia and Austria four years earlier, it had been calculated that the French Army could field onlymen to face the Prussian Army when potentially 1, would be required.
Universal conscription rather than by ballot, as previously and a shorter period of service gave increased numbers of reservists, who would swell the army to a planned strength ofon mobilisation. Those who for any reason were not conscripted were to be enrolled in the Garde Mobilea militia with a nominal strength ofHowever, the Franco-Prussian War broke out before these reforms could be completely implemented.
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The mobilisation of reservists was chaotic and resulted in large numbers of stragglers, while the Garde Mobile were generally untrained and often mutinous. The mitrailleuse was mounted on an artillery gun carriage and grouped in batteries in a similar fashion to cannon. The only campaign plan prepared between and was a defensive one. Service was compulsory for all men of military age, and thus Prussia and its North and South German allies could mobilise and field some 1, soldiers in time of war.
Rather than advancing in a column or line formationPrussian infantry moved in small groups that were harder to target by artillery or French defensive fire. The Prussian army was unique in Europe for having the only such organisation in existence, whose purpose in peacetime was to prepare the overall war strategy, and in wartime to direct operational movement and organise logistics and communications.
Moltke embraced new technology, particularly the railroad and telegraph, to coordinate and accelerate mobilisation of large forces. VI Corps would reinforce either army as needed. The Austro-Hungarians, still reeling after their defeat by Prussia in the Austro-Prussian Warwere treading carefully before stating that they would only side with France if the south Germans viewed the French positively.
This did not materialize as the South German states had come to Prussia's aid and were mobilizing their armies against France. However the Prussians resisted strongly, and the French suffered 86 casualties to the Prussian 83 casualties.
Only one railway there led to the German hinterland but could be easily defended by a single force, and the only river systems in the region ran along the border instead of inland. Battle of Wissembourg Bavarian infantry at the battle of Wissembourg, This organization was due to a lack of supplies, forcing each division to seek out food and forage from the countryside and from the representatives of the army supply arm that was supposed to provision them.
What made a bad situation much worse was the conduct of General Auguste-Alexandre Ducrotcommander of the 1st Division. He told General Abel Douaycommander of the 2nd Division, on 1 August that "The information I have received makes me suppose that the enemy has no considerable forces very near his advance posts, and has no desire to take the offensive".
Even though Ducrot shrugged off the possibility of an attack by the Germans, MacMahon tried to warn his other three division commanders, without success. This battle saw the unsupported division of General Douay of I Corps, with some attached cavalry, which was posted to watch the border, attacked in overwhelming but uncoordinated fashion by the German 3rd Army.
During the day, elements of a Bavarian and two Prussian corps became engaged and were aided by Prussian artillery, which blasted holes in the city defenses. Douay held a very strong position initially, thanks to the accurate long-range rapid fire of the Chassepot rifles, but his force was too thinly stretched to hold it.
Douay was killed in the late morning when a caisson of the divisional mitrailleuse battery exploded near him; the encirclement of the town by the Prussians threatened the French avenue of retreat. Despite an unceasing attack from Prussian infantry, the soldiers of the 2nd Division kept to their positions.
The people of the town of Wissembourg finally surrendered to the Germans. The French troops who did not surrender retreated westward, leaving behind 1, dead and wounded and another 1, prisoners and all of their remaining ammunition. The German cavalry then failed to pursue the French and lost touch with them.
The attackers had an initial superiority of numbers, a broad deployment which made envelopment highly likely but the effectiveness of French Chassepot rifle-fire inflicted costly repulses on infantry attacks, until the French infantry had been extensively bombarded by the Prussian artillery. Moltke had originally planned to keep Bazaine's army on the Saar River until he could attack it with the 2nd Army in front and the 1st Army on its left flank, while the 3rd Army closed towards the rear.
The aging General von Steinmetz made an overzealous, unplanned move, leading the 1st Army south from his position on the Moselle.
He moved straight toward the town of Spicheren, cutting off Prince Frederick Charles from his forward cavalry units in the process. However, planning for the next encounter was more based upon the reality of unfolding events rather than emotion or pride, as Intendant General Wolff told him and his staff that supply beyond the Saar would be impossible.
Therefore, the armies of France would take up a defensive position that would protect against every possible attack point, but also left the armies unable to support each other. A patrol from the German 2nd Army under Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia spotted decoy fires close and Frossard's army farther off on a distant plateau south of the town of Spicheren, and took this as a sign of Frossard's retreat.
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Treating the oncoming attacks as merely skirmishes, Frossard did not request additional support from other units. By the time he realized what kind of a force he was opposing, it was too late.
Seriously flawed communications between Frossard and those in reserve under Bazaine slowed down so much that by the time the reserves received orders to move out to Spicheren, German soldiers from the 1st and 2nd armies had charged up the heights. Instead of continuing to defend the heights, by the close of battle after dusk he retreated to the south. The German casualties were relatively high due to the advance and the effectiveness of the Chassepot rifle.
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