The War With France And Establishment Of The German Empire


Changes in Austria. --Rise of Prussia. --Irritation of the French.

--Napoleon III.'s Decline --War demanded. --The Pretext of the

Spanish Throne. --Leopold of Hohenzollern. --The French Ambassador

at Ems. --France declares War. --Excitement of the People.

--Attitude of Germany. --Three Armies in the Field. --Battle of

Woerth. --Advance upon Metz. --Battles of Mars-la-Tour

Gravelotte. --German Residents expelled from France. --Mac Mahon's

March northwards. --Fighting on the Meuse. --Battle of Sedan.

--Surrender of Napoleon III. and the Army. --Republic in France.

--Hopes of the French People. --Surrenders of Toul. Strasburg and

Metz. --Siege of Paris. --Defeat of the French Armies. --Battles of

Le Mans. --Bourbaki's Defeat and Flight into Switzerland.

--Surrender of Paris. --Peace. --Losses of France. --The German

Empire proclaimed. --William I. Emperor.

[Sidenote: 1869. CHANGES IN AUSTRIA.]

The experience of the next three years showed how completely the new

order of things was accepted by the great majority of the German people.

Even in Austria, the defeat at Koeniggraetz and the loss of Venetia were

welcomed by the Hungarians and Slavonians, and hardly regretted by the

German population, since it was evident that the Imperial Government

must give up its absolutist policy or cease to exist. In fact, the

former Ministry was immediately dismissed: Count Beust, a Saxon and a

Protestant, was called to Vienna, and a series of reforms was

inaugurated which did not terminate until the Hungarians had won all

they demanded in 1848, and the Germans and Bohemians enjoyed full as

much liberty as the Prussians.

The Seven Weeks' War of 1866, in fact, was a phenomenon in history; no

nation ever acquired so much fame and influence in so short a time, as

Prussia. The relation of the king, and especially of the statesman who

guided him, Count Bismarck, towards the rest of Germany, was suddenly

and completely changed. Napoleon III. was compelled to transfer Venetia

to Italy, and thus his declaration in 1859 that "Italy should be free,

from the Alps to the Adriatic," was made good,--but not by France. While

the rest of Europe accepted the changes in Germany with equanimity, if

not with approbation, the vain and sensitive people of France felt

themselves deeply humiliated. Thus far, the policy of Napoleon III. had

seemed to preserve the supremacy of France in European politics. He had

overawed England, defeated Russia, and treated Italy as a magnanimous

patron. But the best strength of Germany was now united under a new

Constitution, after a war which made the achievements at Magenta,

Solferino and in the Crimea seem tame. The ostentatious designs of

France in Mexico came also to a tragic end in 1867, and her disgraceful

failure there only served to make the success of Prussia, by contrast,

more conspicuous.

[Sidenote: 1869.]

The opposition to Napoleon III. in the French Assembly made use of these

facts to increase its power. His own success had been due to good luck

rather than to superior ability: he was now more than sixty years old,

he had become cautious and wavering in his policy, and he undoubtedly

saw how much would be risked in provoking a war with the North-German

Union; but the temper of the French people left him no alternative. He

had certainly meant to interfere in 1866, had not the marvellous

rapidity of Prussia prevented it. That France had no shadow of right to

interfere, was all the same to his people: they held him responsible for

the creation of a new political Germany, which was apparently nearly as

strong as France, and that was a thing not to be endured. He yielded to

the popular excitement, and only waited for a pretext which might

justify him before the world in declaring war.

Such a pretext came in 1870. The Spaniards had expelled their Bourbon

Queen, Isabella, in 1868, and were looking about for a new monarch from

some other royal house. Their choice fell upon Prince Leopold of

Hohenzollern, a distant relation of William I. of Prussia, but also

nearly connected with the Bonaparte family through his wife, who was a

daughter of the Grand-Duchess Stephanie Beauharnais. On the 6th of July,

Napoleon's minister, the Duke de Gramont, declared to the French

Assembly that this choice would never be tolerated by France. The French

ambassador in Prussia, Benedetti, was ordered to demand of King William

that he should prohibit Prince Leopold from accepting the offer. The

king answered that he could not forbid what he had never advised; but,

immediately afterwards (on the 12th of July), Prince Leopold voluntarily

declined, and all cause of trouble seemed to be removed.

[Sidenote: 1870. FRANCE INSISTS ON WAR.]

The French people, however, were insanely bent upon war. The excitement

was so great, and so urgently fostered by the Empress Eugenie, the Duke

de Gramont, and the army, that Napoleon III. again yielded. A dispatch

was sent to Benedetti: "Be rough to the king!" The ambassador, who was

at the baths of Ems, where William I. was also staying, sought the

latter on the public promenade and abruptly demanded that he should give

France a guarantee that no member of the house of Hohenzollern should

ever accept the throne of Spain. The ambassador's manner, even more than

his demand, was insulting: the king turned upon his heel, and left him

standing. This was on the 13th of July: on the 15th the king returned to

Berlin, and on the 19th France formally declared war.

It was universally believed that every possible preparation had been

made for this step. In fact, Marshal Le Boeuf assured Napoleon III.

that the army was "more than ready," and an immediate French advance to

the Rhine was anticipated throughout Europe. Napoleon relied upon

detaching the Southern German States from the Union, upon revolts in

Hesse and Hannover, and finally, upon alliances with Austria and Italy.

The French people were wild with excitement, which took the form of

rejoicing: there was a general cry that Napoleon I.'s birthday, the 15th

of August, must be celebrated in Berlin. But the German people, North

and South, rose as one man: for the first time in her history, Germany

became one compact, national power. Bavarian and Hannoverian, Prussian

and Hessian, Saxon and Westphalian joined hands and stood side by side.

The temper of the people was solemn, but inflexibly firm: they did not

boast of coming victory, but every one was resolved to die rather than

see Germany again overrun by the French.

This time there were no alliances: it was simply Germany on one side and

France on the other. The greatest military genius of our day, Moltke,

had foreseen the war, no less than Bismarck, and was equally prepared.

The designs of France lay clear, and the only question was to check

them in their very commencement. In eleven days, Germany had 450,000

soldiers, organized in three armies, on the way, and the French had not

yet crossed the frontier! Further, there was a German reserve force of

112,000, while France had but 310,000, all told, in the field. By the 2d

of August, on which day King William reached Mayence, three German

armies (General Steinmetz on the North with 61,000 men, Prince Frederick

Karl in the centre with 206,000, and the Crown-Prince Frederick William

on the South with 180,000) stretched from Treves to Landau, and the line

of the Rhine was already safe. On the same day, Napoleon III. and his

young son accompanied General Frossard, with 25,000 men, in an attack

upon the unfortified frontier town of Saarbrueck, which was defended by

only 1800 Uhlans (cavalry). The capture of this little place was

telegraphed to Paris, and received with the wildest rejoicings; but it

was the only instance during the war when French troops stood upon

German soil--unless as prisoners.

[Sidenote: 1870.]

On the 4th the army of the Crown-Prince crossed the French frontier and

defeated Marshal Mac Mahon's right wing at Weissenburg. The old castle

was stormed and taken by the Bavarians, and the French repulsed, after a

loss of about 1,000 on each side. Mac Mahon concentrated his whole force

and occupied a strong position near the village of Woerth, where he was

again attacked on the 6th. The battle lasted thirteen hours and was

fiercely contested: the Germans lost 10,000 killed and wounded, the

French 8,000, and 6,000 prisoners; but when night came Mac Mahon's

defeat turned into a panic. Part of his army fled towards the Vosges

mountains, part towards Strasburg, and nearly all Alsatia was open to

the victorious Germans. On the very same day, the army of Steinmetz

stormed the heights of Spicheren near Saarbrueck, and won a splendid

victory. This was followed by an immediate advance across the frontier

at Forbach, and the capture of a great amount of supplies.

Thus, in less than three weeks from the declaration of war, the attitude

of France was changed from the aggressive to the defensive, the field of

war was transferred to French soil, and all Napoleon III.'s plans of

alliance were rendered vain. Leaving a division of Baden troops to

invest Strasburg, the Crown-Prince pressed forward with his main army,

and in a few days reached Nancy, in Lorraine. The armies of the North

and Centre advanced at the same time, defeated Bazaine on the 14th of

August at Courcelles, and forced him to fall back upon Metz. He

thereupon determined, after garrisoning the forts of Metz, to retreat

still further, in order to unite with General Trochu, who was organizing

a new army at Chalons, and with the remnants of Mac Mahon's forces.

Moltke detected his plans at once, and the army of Frederick Karl was

thereupon hurried across the Moselle, to get into his rear and prevent

the junction.


The struggle between the two commenced on the 16th, near the village of

Mars-la-Tour, where Bazaine, with 180,000 men, endeavored to force his

way past Frederick Karl, who had but 120,000, the other two German

armies being still in the rear. For six hours the latter held his

position under a murderous fire, until three corps arrived to reinforce

him. Bazaine claimed a victory, although he lost the southern and

shorter road to Verdun; but Moltke none the less gained his object. The

losses were about 17,000 killed and wounded on each side.

After a single day of rest, the struggle was resumed on the 18th, when

the still bloodier and more desperate battle of Gravelotte was fought.

The Germans now had about 200,000 soldiers together, while Bazaine had

180,000, with a great advantage in his position on a high plateau. In

this battle, the former situation of the combatants was changed: the

German lines faced eastward, the French westward--a circumstance which

made defeat more disastrous to either side. The strife began in the

morning and continued until darkness put an end to it: the French right

wing yielded after a succession of heroic assaults, but the centre and

left wing resisted gallantly until the very close of the battle. It was

a hard-won victory, adding 20,000 killed and wounded to the German

losses, but it cut off Bazaine's retreat and forced him to take shelter

behind the fortifications of Metz, the siege of which, by Prince

Frederick Karl with 200,000 men, immediately commenced, while the rest

of the German army marched on to attack Mac Mahon and Trochu at Chalons.

[Sidenote: 1870.]

There could be no question as to the bravery of the French troops in

these two battles. In Paris the Government and people persisted in

considering them victories, until the imprisonment of Bazaine's army

proved that their result was defeat. Then a wild cry of rage rang

through the land: France had been betrayed, and by whom, if not by the

German residents in Paris and other cities? The latter, more than

100,000 in number, including women and helpless children, were expelled

from the country under circumstances of extreme barbarity. The French

people, not the Government, was responsible for this act: the latter was

barely able to protect the Germans from worse violence.

Mac Mahon had in the meantime organized a new army of 125,000 men in the

camp at Chalons, where, it was supposed, he would dispute the advance on

Paris. This was his plan, in fact, and he was with difficulty persuaded

by Marshal Palikao, the Minister of War, to give it up and undertake a

rapid march up the Meuse, along the Belgian frontier, to relieve Bazaine

in Metz. On the 23d of August, the Crown-Prince, who had already passed

beyond Verdun on his way to Chalons, received intelligence that the

French had left the latter place. Detachments of Uhlans, sent out in all

haste to reconnoitre, soon brought the astonishing news that Mac Mahon

was marching rapidly northwards. Gen. Moltke detected his plan, which

could only be thwarted by the most vigorous movement on the part of the

German forces. The front of the advance was instantly changed, reformed

on the right flank, and all pushed northwards by forced marches.

[Sidenote: 1870. MAC MAHON'S MARCH.]

Mac Mahon had the outer and longer line, so that, in spite of the

rapidity of his movements, he was met by the extreme right wing of the

German army on the 28th of August, at Stenay on the Meuse. Being here

held in check, fresh divisions were hurried against him, several small

engagements followed, and on the 31st he was defeated at Beaumont by the

Crown-Prince of Saxony. The German right was thereupon pushed beyond the

Meuse and occupied the passes of the Forest of Ardennes, leading into

Belgium. Meanwhile the German left, under Frederick William, was rapidly

driving back the French right and cutting off the road to Paris. Nothing

was left to Mac Mahon but to concentrate his forces and retire upon the

small fortified city of Sedan. Napoleon III., who had left Metz before

the battle of Mars-la-Tour, and did not dare to return to Paris at such

a time, was with him.

The Germans, now numbering 200,000, lost no time in planting batteries

on all the heights which surround the valley of the Meuse, at Sedan,

like the rim of an irregular basin. Mac Mahon had 112,000 men, and his

only chance of success was to break through the wider ring which

inclosed him, at some point where it was weak. The battle began at five

o'clock on the morning of September 1st. The principal struggle was for

the possession of the villages of Bazeilles and Illy, and the heights of

Daigny. Mac Mahon was severely wounded, soon after the fight began; the

command was then given to General Ducrot and afterwards to General

Wimpffen, who knew neither the ground nor the plan of operations. The

German artillery fire was fearful, and the French infantry could not

stand before it, while their cavalry was almost annihilated during the

afternoon, in a succession of charges on the Prussian infantry.

By three o'clock it was evident that the French army was defeated:

driven back from every strong point which was held in the morning,

hurled together in a demoralized mass, nothing was left but surrender.

General Lauriston appeared with a white flag on the walls of Sedan, and

the terrible fire of the German artillery ceased. Napoleon III. wrote to

King William: "Not having been able to die at the head of my troops, I

lay my sword at your Majesty's feet,"--and retired to the castle of

Bellevue, outside of the city. Early the next morning he had an

interview with Bismarck at the little village of Donchery, and then

formally surrendered to the King at Bellevue.

[Sidenote: 1870.]

During the battle, 25,000 French soldiers had been taken prisoners: the

remaining 83,000, including 4,000 officers, surrendered on the 2d of

September: 400 cannon, 70 mitrailleuses, and 1,100 horses also fell

into the hands of the Germans. Never before, in history, had such a host

been taken captive. The news of this overwhelming victory electrified

the world: Germany rang with rejoicings, and her emigrated sons in

America and Australia joined in the jubilee. The people said: "It will

be another Seven Weeks' War," and this hope might possibly have been

fulfilled, but for the sudden political change in France. On the 4th

(two days after the surrender), a revolution broke out in Paris, the

Empress Eugenie and the members of her government fled, and a Republic

was declared. The French, blaming Napoleon alone for their tremendous

national humiliation, believed that they could yet recover their lost

ground; and when one of their prominent leaders, the statesman Jules

Favre, declared that "not one foot of soil, not one stone of a fortress"

should be yielded to Germany, the popular enthusiasm knew no bounds.

But it was too late. The great superiority of the military organization

of Prussia had been manifested against the regular troops of France, and

it could not be expected that new armies of volunteers, however brave

and devoted, would be more successful. The army of the Crown-Prince

marched on towards Paris without opposition, and on the 17th of

September came in sight of the city, which was defended by an outer

circle of powerful detached fortresses, constructed during the reign of

Louis Philippe. Gen. Trochu was made military governor, with 70,000

men--the last remnant of the regular army--under his command. He had

barely time to garrison and strengthen the forts, when the city was

surrounded, and the siege commenced.

For two months thereafter, the interest of the war is centred upon

sieges. The fortified city of Toul, in Lorraine, surrendered on the 23d

of September, Strasburg, after a six weeks' siege, on the 28th, and thus

the two lines of railway communication between Germany and Paris were

secured. All the German reserves were called into the field, until,

finally, more than 800,000 soldiers stood upon French soil. After two or

three attempts to break through the lines Bazaine surrendered Metz on

the 28th of October. It was another event without a parallel in military

history. There Marshals of France, 6,000 officers, 145,000 unwounded

soldiers, 73 eagles, 854 pieces of artillery, and 400,000 Chasse-pot

rifles, were surrendered to Prince Frederick Karl!

[Sidenote: 1870. NEW FRENCH ARMIES.]

After these successes, the capture of Paris became only a question of

time. Although the Republican leader, Gambetta, escaped from the city in

a balloon, and by his fiery eloquence aroused the people of Central and

Southern France, every plan for raising the siege of Paris failed. The

French volunteers were formed into three armies--that of the North,

under Faidherbe; of the Loire, under Aurelles de Paladine (afterwards

under Chanzy and Bourbaki); and of the East, under Keratry. Besides, a

great many companies of francs-tireurs, or independent sharp-shooters,

were organized to interrupt the German communications, and they gave

much more trouble than the larger armies. About the end of November a

desperate attempt was made to raise the siege of Paris. General Paladine

marched from Orleans with 150,000 men, while Trochu tried to break the

lines of the besiegers on the eastern side. The latter was repelled,

after a bloody fight: the former was attacked at Beaune la Rolande, by

Prince Frederick Karl, with only half the number of troops, and most

signally defeated. The Germans then carried on the winter campaign with

the greatest vigor, both in the Northern provinces and along the Loire,

and Trochu, with his four hundred thousand men, made no further serious

effort to save Paris.

Frederick Karl took Orleans on the 5th of December, advanced to Tours,

and finally, in a six days' battle, early in January, 1871, at Le Mans,

literally cut the Army of the Loire to pieces. The French lost 60,000 in

killed, wounded and prisoners. Faidherbe was defeated in the North, a

week afterwards, and the only resistance left was in Burgundy, where

Garibaldi (who hastened to France after the Republic was proclaimed) had

been successful in two or three small engagements, and was now replaced

by Bourbaki. The object of the latter was to relieve the fortress of

Belfort, then besieged by General Werder, who, with 43,000 men,

awaited his coming in a strong position among the mountains.

Notwithstanding Bourbaki had more than 100,000 men, he was forced to

retreat after a fight of three days, and then General Manteuffel, who

had been sent in all haste to strengthen Werder, followed him so closely

that on the 1st of February, all retreat being cut off, his whole army

of 83,000 men crossed the Swiss frontier, and after suffering terribly

among the snowy passes of the Jura, were disarmed, fed and clothed by

the Swiss government and people. Bourbaki attempted to commit suicide,

but only inflicted a severe wound, from which he afterwards recovered.

[Sidenote: 1871. SURRENDER OF PARIS.]

The retreat into Switzerland was almost the last event of the Seven

Months' War, as it might be called, and it was as remarkable as the

surrenders of Sedan and Metz. All power of defence was now broken:

France was completely at the mercy of her conquerors. On the 28th of

January, after long negotiations between Bismarck and Jules Favre, the

forts around Paris capitulated and Trochu's army became prisoners of

war. The city was not occupied, but, for the sake of the half-starved

population, provisions were allowed to enter. The armistice, originally

declared for three weeks, was prolonged until March 1st, when the

preliminaries of peace were agreed upon, and hostilities came to an end.

By the final treaty of Peace, which was concluded at Frankfort on the

10th of May, 1871, France gave up Alsatia with all its cities and

fortresses except Belfort, and German Lorraine, including Metz and

Thionville, to Germany. The territory thus transferred contained about

5,500 square miles and 1,580,000 inhabitants. France also agreed to pay

an indemnity of five thousand millions of francs, in instalments,

certain of her departments to be occupied by German troops, and only

evacuated by degrees, as the payments were made. Thus ended this

astonishing war, during which 17 great battles and 156 minor engagements

had been fought, 22 fortified places taken, 385,000 soldiers (including

11,360 officers) made prisoners, and 7,200 cannon and 600,000 stand of

arms acquired by Germany. There is no such crushing defeat of a strong

nation recorded in history.

[Sidenote: 1871.]

Even before the capitulation of Paris the natural political result of

the victory was secured to Germany. The cooperation of the three

Southern States in the war removed the last barrier to a union of all,

except Austria, under the lead of Prussia. That which the great

majority of the people desired was also satisfactory to the princes: the

"North-German Union" was enlarged and transformed into the "German

Empire," by including Bavaria, Wuertemberg and Baden. It was agreed that

the young king of Bavaria, Ludwig II., as occupying the most important

position among the rulers of the three separate States, should ask King

William to assume the Imperial dignity, with the condition that it

should be hereditary in his family. The other princes and the free

cities united in the call; and on the 18th of January, 1871, in the

grand hall of the palace of Versailles, where Richelieu and Louis XIV.

and Napoleon I. had plotted their invasions of Germany, the king

formally accepted the title of Emperor, and the German States were at

last united as one compact, indivisible Nation.

The Emperor William concluded his proclamation to the German People with

these words: "May God permit us, and our successors to the Imperial

crown, to give at all times increase to the German Empire, not by the

conquests of war, but by the goods and gifts of peace, in the path of

national prosperity, freedom and morality!" After the end of the war was

assured, he left Paris, and passed in a swift march of triumph through

Germany to Berlin, where the popular enthusiasm was extravagantly

exhibited. Four days afterwards he called together the first German

Parliament (since 1849), and the organization of the new Empire was

immediately commenced. It was simply, in all essential points, a renewal

of the North-German Union. The Imperial Government introduced a general

military, naval, financial, postal and diplomatic system for all the

States, a uniformity of weights, measures and coinage,--in short, a

thoroughly national union of locally independent States, all of which

are embraced in a name which is no longer merely geographical--GERMANY.

Here, then, the History of the Race ceases, and that of the Nation