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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Mac Mahon had the outer and longer line


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.


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