The Franco-Prussian War 1870

The German Invasion of France

BattlefieldHistory

Tour Introduction

In the company of one of the leading experts on the Franco-Prussian War, Major General John Drewienkiewicz former Engineer in Chief of the British Army, you will explore some of the most important battlefields in Europe and discuss the evolution of tactics and strategy as they morphed in tandem with the development of new weapons, transport systems and social change. Travel to and from France and Germany will be in Eurostar’s comfortable Standard Premier class and first class TGV. We are based out of wonderful hotels, each situated in the historical heart of Strasbourg, Metz or Sedan, the latter the town’s 15th century chateau and birthplace of Turenne. We enjoy dinner at a variety of local restaurants all within a short, pleasant, atmospheric walks of our hotel.

Background

The Franco-Prussian War was the largest and most important war in Europe since Waterloo, changing the face of the continent for the next fifty years. Having already defeated Austria in 1866 as part of his continuing plan for the unification of Germany, the Chancellor of Prussia Otto von Bismarck, engineered this war against the France of the Second Empire under Napoleon III. The contrast between the efficient Prussian war-machine under Helmuth von Moltke and the shambolic performance of the French Army shocked all observers. Within a matter of weeks, the Prussians and their allies had won a series of spectacular victories, leading to Napoleon’s abdication and the establishment of the French Third Republic, followed by the Siege of Paris and the abortive revolution of the Paris Commune. In 1871 a unified Germany dominated by Prussia was proclaimed, eclipsing France as the leading power in Europe, and leaving a legacy of rivalry and hatred that was not finally resolved until the end of the Second World War.

Highlights

  • Guided by leading military historian, Major General John Drewienkiewicz
  • Staying in wonderful accommodation in historic French & German towns
  • Full exploration of the Battles of Wissembourg and Wörth
  • Comfortable and enjoyable rail journeys

"Very well organised and planned, which is what I expected and wanted. Well done"

Itinerary

Day 1 - Strasbourg. Depart London St Pancras for Strasbourg via Paris and check-in to our hotel for two nights. Enjoy an orientation tour through the magical ‘Petit France’ district.

Day 2 - Wissembourg and Wörth. Full of confidence but with no plan, Napoleon’s armies initially attempted to take the war to Germany, but were repulsed at the Battles of Wissembourg and Wörth. From the dominating heights above Wissembourg we will discuss the Bavarian advance on that little town and its determined defence. After lunch we will move to Wörth to view the battle from the Crown Prince’s command position and then gain a fantastic overview of French dispositions from Elsasshausen.

Day 3 - Wörth and Spichern. Today we continue our study of Wörth: we discuss the fight for the Niederwald, the Prussian encircling movements and final stand of the French at Froeschwiller. We then drive northwest to the site of the meagre French offensive towards Saarbrucken and the response of the Prussian 1st and 2nd Armies, both sides being largely unaware of the presence of the other. At Spichern we will discuss how the gallant General Frossard’s II Corps held off the counter-attacking Germans for a whole day. We walk along the Rotherberg Spur, visit the little cemetery there and stand on the Pfaaffenberg. We return to Metz along the path of the French retreat. Check-in to our hotel in the centre of Metz for three nights.

Day 4 - Mars la Tour. Here the Prussian III Corps managed to prevent the French Army’s withdrawal from Metz. We will examine Alvesleben’s approach, the Prussian capture of the Verdun Road at Vionville, Von Bredow’s famous death charge, the failure of the French to capture Mars La Tour (and thus continue their retreat) and the devastation of the final Prussian attack in the Bruville Ravine. Return to Metz mid-afternoon.

Day 5 - Gravelotte-St Privat. Visit the wonderful museum, recently refurbished. Then follow the battlefield action at Gravelotte-St Privat, where the Prussians finally drove Bazaine's Army back into Metz. We explore the Mance Ravine, ‘Point du Jour’ and Moscow Farm; travel northwards along the front line via Verneville and Amanvillers and thence to follow in the footsteps of the Prussian guard up the glacis-like slope to St Privat.

Day 6 - Advance on Sedan. We examine the Prussian advance after Gravelotte St Privat and the actions fought at Nouart, Beaumont and Bazeilles, the latter the scene of the French Marines’ fight to “la derniere cartouche”. Check-in to our Chateau hotel for two nights.

Day 7 - Sedan. Visit the field of the decisive battle of Sedan including the Calvaire d’Illy, the fatal French cavalry charges at Floing, the Crown Prince’s command post above Frenois, the final moves at Doncherey and the house where Bismarck met Napoleon III.

Day 8 - St Quentin. Today we consider the ‘guerre à outrance’ on the Somme. Just to the east of Amiens we stand on the bare chalk slopes: perfect killing zones that would be so well known some 45 years later and where General Faidherbe restored the fighting confidence in his small French Army. We stop for a lunch break at Ham, where for 6 years Louis-Napoleon was held prisoner. Continue to Lille to catch the return Eurostar to London St Pancras.

The Franco-Prussian War 1870

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