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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

And retired to the castle of Bellevue


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!


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