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A History of the Third French Republic by Wright

Showed himself inferior to Chanzy and Faidherbe


Gambetta

had succeeded during October in organizing the Army of the Loire which, under General d'Aurelle de Paladines, defeated the Bavarian forces of von der Thann at Coulmiers and recaptured Orleans. The plan was to push on to Paris and the objections of d'Aurelle were overcome by Gambetta. But the fall of Metz had released German reinforcements. After an unsuccessful contest by the right wing at Beaune-la-Rolande (November 28), and a partial victory at Villepion, the French were defeated in turn on December 2 at Loigny or Patay (left wing), on December 3 at Artenay. The Germans reoccupied Orleans and the first Army of the Loire was dispersed. The Government moved from Tours to Bordeaux.

After Coulmiers General Trochu had planned a sortie from Paris to meet the Army of the Loire. This advance was under command of General Ducrot, but was delayed by trouble with pontoon bridges. The various battles of the Marne (November 30-December 2) culminated in the terrible fight and repulse of Villiers and Champigny. In the north, a small army hastily brought together under temporary command of General Favre was defeated at Villers-Bretonneux and Amiens (November 27).

The last phase of the Franco-Prussian War begins with the crushing of the Army of the Loire and the check of the advance to Champigny. With unwearied tenacity Gambetta tried to reorganize the Army of the Loire. A portion became the second Army of the Loire or of the

West, under Chanzy. The rest, under Bourbaki, became the Army of the East. Faidherbe tried to revive the Army of the North.

To Chanzy, on the whole the most capable French general of the war, was assigned the task of trying, with a smaller force, what d'Aurelle had already failed in accomplishing, a drive on Paris. In this task Bourbaki and Faidherbe were expected by Gambetta to cooperate. Instead of succeeding, Chanzy, bravely fighting, was driven back, first down the Loire, in the long-contested battle of Josnes (Villorceau or Beaugency) (December 7-10), then up the valley of the tributary Loir to Vendome and Le Mans. There the army, reduced almost to a mob, made a new stand. In a battle between January 10 and 12, this army was again routed and what was left thrown back to Laval.

Faidherbe, taking the offensive in the north, fought an indecisive contest at Pont-Noyelles (December 23) and took Bapaume (January 3). But his endeavor to proceed to the assistance of Paris was frustrated, he was unable to relieve Peronne, which fell on January 9, and was defeated at Saint-Quentin on January 19.

Bourbaki, in spite of his reputation, showed himself inferior to Chanzy and Faidherbe. He let his army lose morale by his hesitation, and then accepted with satisfaction Freycinet's plan to move east upon Germany instead of to the rescue of Paris. On the eastern frontier Colonel Denfert-Rochereau was tenaciously holding Belfort, which was never captured by the Germans during the whole war.[2] Bourbaki's dishearteningly slow progress received no effective assistance from Garibaldi. This Italian soldier of fortune, now somewhat in his decline, had offered his services to France and was in command of a small body of guerillas and sharpshooters, the Army of the Vosges. With alternate periods of inactivity, failure, and success, Garibaldi perhaps did more harm than good to France. He monopolized the services of several thousand men, and yet, through his prestige as a distinguished foreign volunteer, he could not be brought under control. Bourbaki won the battle of Villersexel on January 9. Pushing on to Belfort he was defeated only a few miles from the town in the battle of Hericourt, or Montbeliard, along the river Lisaine. The army, now transformed into panic-stricken fugitives, made its way painfully through bitter cold and snow, and Bourbaki tried to commit suicide. He was succeeded by General Clinchant. When Paris capitulated, on January 28, and an armistice was signed, this Army of the East was omitted. Jules Favre at Paris failed to notify Gambetta in the provinces of this exception, and the army, hearing of the armistice, ceased its flight, only to be relentlessly followed by the Germans. Finally, on February 1, the remnants of the army fled across the Swiss frontier and found safety on neutral soil.


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