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Author Topic: Battle of St. Privat. 1870 PT 2  (Read 624 times)

Offline nevermore

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Battle of St. Privat. 1870 PT 2
« on: November 26, 2013, 11:01:00 AM »
Battle of St. Privat. 1870 PT 2

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Prussian commander

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

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Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (26 October 1800, Parchim, Mecklenburg-Schwerin – 24 April 1891) was a German Field Marshal. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years, he is regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century, and the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field. He is often referred to as Moltke the Elder to distinguish him from his nephew Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke, who commanded the German Army at the outbreak of World War I.

French Commander

François Achille Bazaine

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François Achille Bazaine (13 February 1811 – 23 September 1888) was a French General and from 1864, a Marshal of France, who surrendered the last organized French army to the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian war. He was the first Marshal who had started as a legionnaire and like the great Marshals of the First Empire, had risen from the ranks.During four decades of distinguished service (including 35 years on campaign) under Louis-Philippe and then Napoleon III, he held every rank in the Army from Fusilier to Marshal of France. He became renowned for his determination to lead from the front, for his impassive bearing under fire and for personal bravery verging on the foolhardy (resulting in him being wounded on numerous occasions and having his horse shot from under him twice). He was sentenced to death by the government of the Third Republic, for his surrender of the fortress city of Metz and his army of 180,000 men to the Prussians on 27 October 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War. This sentence was commuted to 20 years imprisonment in exile, from which he subsequently escaped. He eventually settled in Spain where aged 77, he died alone and impoverished in 1888. To the Foreign Legion he remains a hero and to this day is honoured as one of their bravest soldiers.


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Fought August 18, 1870, between the French, under Bazaine, and the combined German army under the supreme command of William of Prussia. The battle was most hotly contested, but while the French held their ground in the neighbourhood of Gravelotte, the Germans turned their right flank at St. Privat, and they were eventually obliged to abandon all their positions, and retire into Metz, where they were subsequently blockaded. The German losses amounted to 899 officers and 19,260 men killed, and wounded. The French losses were somewhat less. This battle is also known as the battle of St. Privat.

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The Battle

The morning of the 18th found the French deployed with the II corps resting its left flank upon the Moselle River, with III, IV and VI Corps stretching away Northwards. VI Corps was open to being outflanked but Bazaine placed all his reserves behind the Southern flank to support II and III Corps.

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The battle began with the Prussian I Army under that redoubtable loony, General von Steinmetz, hurling itself upon the prepared positions of the II and III French Corps. Not satisfied with progress he commited more troops until both VII and VII Corps were milling about in the Mance Ravine whilst the French took pot shots at them. Steinmetz’s answer was to commit the Cavalry and so the 1st Cavalry Division had to charge across the ravine as well. His final act of the day was to commit the fresh II Corps to the battle with the same, predictable results. Only a complete lack of French initiative and the incredible mess in the Mance Ravine prevented three entire Corps being swept away in total rout.

Further North von Manstein’s IX Corps was pinned down by Chassepot rifle fire.

Only in the far North did things begin to go wrong for the French. Here Canrobert’s VI Corps held the open flank without promise of any assistance.

The Prussian efforts to outflank the French right resulted in the Prussian Imperial Guard Corps hitting Canrobert’s men head-on. Rather than wait for the Saxons of the XII Corps to march around the French flank, or wait for the artillery to catch up, the entire infantry of the Guard launched itself up a bare slope at the French position. None got much closer than 600 yards and by the end of the day, nearly half the Corps would be listed as casualties.

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Finally the Prussian twigged as to what was required and assembled 200+ Krupp guns which they used to batter the French lines. Under this maelstrom of fire and with the Saxons at last bring pressure to bear, the French postion collapsed.

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Too late in the day Bazaine sent General Bourbaki with the Guard Grenadier Division to shore up the line. But on seeing the rout of VI Corps, Bourbaki turned the Guard around.

As darkness fell, the French retreated the last distance back into Metz.

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