The French marshal MacMahon, going to the rescue of Bazin’s army besieged in Metz, 30 August 1870 was defeated at Beaumont and September 1 was defeated at Sedan. The French army took refuge in the fortress of Sedan. However, after an intensive artillery bombardment, the French hung a white flag. 120-thousand the french army was broken and folded weapon. The army commander MacMahon and the emperor of France Napoleon III were taken prisoner. Capture of Napoleon III was the end of the Second Empire in France and the beginning of the establishment of the republic. In Sedan, and then in Metz, France lost almost the entire regular army. The hastily formed French troops resembled the militia more than the regular army. Thus, the victory at Sedan opened the way for Prussian troops to Paris. France actually lost the war.
Battle of Beaumont
23 August 1870 The Macalona’s Chalon army marched to the aid of Bazin’s army in Metz. MacMahon was against this plan, since the remaining French troops, from a military point of view, it was better to go to Paris. French troops could rely on the fortifications and resources of the French capital, and if necessary, retreat, continuing the war. The army of Mac-Magona had low combat capability and could not fight on equal terms with the Prussians. However, the French government insisted on this decision, political considerations prevailed over the military. And the attempts of Mac-Magon to sabotage the movement to the east, escaping with small clashes with the enemy, did not lead to success.
The Prussian command, interested in having MacMahon advance as far as possible to the east and thereby increasing the danger of being cut off from Paris and driven between the German army and the Belgian border, deliberately informed in the press that significant German forces “decidedly moved on Paris". In fact, the Prussian command, using the military advantages that the French themselves had given him, continued to send the bulk of the German troops to the northeast. Acting much faster than MacMahon, whose slowness was due to poor supply of his army, which forced the French troops to deviate from the main line of movement in search of food and other supplies, as well as personal doubts of the marshal, the Germans soon advanced to the Meuse River (Meuse) and captured the ferry across it.
30 August 1870 The Prussians attacked the MacMahon army near Beaumont. The German strike fell on the 5 of the French Corps de Faye (Falla). The French troops reached the area around Beaumont only at 4 in the morning and were extremely tired of the previous battles and marches at night. Therefore, General Fayy decided in the morning to give people lunch, rest, and only after that speak. Although the proximity of the enemy was known, but the French did not take any special precautions. As a result, in 1 hour 30 min. around noon, while the officers and soldiers were still having dinner, in the midst of this carefree crowd, Prussian grenades began to lay down. The attack was unexpected for the French.
The 4 German Corps performed in the early morning and after a short halt in the 10 hour. continued his march. At noon, 8, the German division, emerged from the forest, and found a French camp in 800 steps in front of it. General Scheler decided to use the opportune moment, complete surprise, especially since the presence of the German troops could not be hidden from the enemy for a long time. He ordered his artillery to open fire.
However, the French, we must pay tribute to them, bravely met the enemy. The French soldiers immediately became a rifle and launched an offensive with thick rifle chains, which inflicted heavy losses with their long-range rifles, Shaspo, especially Prussian batteries standing in front. French artillery fired back. The avant-garde 8 of the German division had a hard time. But soon the main forces of the division approached, and then the 7-I division appeared on the right. The French made a strong attack against her too, it came down a bayonet battle. Gradually, the advantage passed to the Prussians. The Germans broke into the camp in front of Beaumont, in the city itself, and, finally, in its second camp to the north. 7 of French guns was captured, part of the convoy. Captured French soldiers appeared.
About 2 hour. the day came a break in the battle of the infantry, but the artillery duel continued. Fourteen 4 batteries of the corps from the range of heights north of Beaumont continued the battle against the French artillery. Soon they were reinforced: Saxon right, Bavarian artillery to the left. As a result, strong German artillery first suppressed the fire of the French mitraille, and then the guns.
On the left flank of the 4 Prussian Corps, the 2 Bavarian Corps advanced on Tibodin. The Bavarians were unexpectedly attacked from the west by a strong French detachment. The German corps collided with the French division of Conseil-Dumenil of the 7 Corps, which, carrying out an erroneous order, was moving in the wrong direction towards Muzon. The French themselves were surprised to meet with the enemy. The French and Bavarians clashed in battle, but the forces were unequal and soon other German troops arrived to help the Bavarians. The French division, attacked from the front and flank, lost hope of breaking into the 4 hour. hastily retreated to the north.
Under the cover of the rearguard, General Faye tried to organize a defense at Mouzon. To support him, General Lebrun ordered one infantry and one cavalry brigade of the 12 corps with three batteries to return to the left bank of the Maas. Against the French position about 5 hour. The 8 Prussian Division performed. Prussians moved through the forest Jivodo. However, at the exit from the forest, the mixed Prussian battalions were met with strong fire. The repeated attempts of Prussian shooters to break through failed. The Saxon corps tried to attack the Meuse valley, but numerous French batteries from an unapproachable position on the other side of the river swept through the entire lowland. As a result, the Saxons also went through the forest Jivodo. German troops made a series of successful attacks, captured several French batteries. The French 5 th Cuirassier Regiment, trying to attack the enemy, was literally shot. His upset swims crossed the Maas.
Marshal McMahon realized that the case was lost and now it is necessary to more or less orderly clean up the left bank of the Meuse and therefore he recalled back reinforcements sent from the right bank. A considerable mass of French troops were still standing in front of Mouzon, and they were fired against the gradually approaching batteries of the 4 corps. Two Bavarian batteries fired at a bridge that lay lower along the river at Willer, interfering with its use. Then, after a stubborn battle, a suburb was taken over individual houses and a bridge over the Meuse was captured here. Having lost the opportunity to retreat, the French stubbornly fought off, but they were crowded to the river. The French soldiers defended before the forest of Zhivodo found themselves in an equally desperate situation: they were attacked by the 7 division and the 12 corps and scattered after a stubborn battle. By evening, the resistance of the French troops on the left bank of the Meuse was broken. Many of the French soldiers who remained there were captured, others fled and tried to hide or try to escape by swimming.
Thus, the French army suffered another defeat, although Prussian troops suffered sensitive losses. The 5 french corps was broken. The German Maas army lost 3,5 to thousands of people, mostly from the 4 corps, which fought on that day. The French identified their losses as 1 800 people, but during the day and the next morning they lost about 3 thousand people as prisoners. The 51 cannon, a large number of various property, became the trophies of the German army.
This defeat increased the decomposition of the French troops. The troops were extremely tired with strenuous operations day and night, in constant rain and lack of food and other supplies. The aimless, apparently, movement back and forth undermined the credibility of the command, and a number of unsuccessful battles shook faith in their strength. Thousands of fugitives demanding bread squeezed forward along the roads, hoping to find shelter and bread in Sedan.
While the 4 of the German corps was engaged in a battle with the French, the rest of the forces were closely concentrated between the Meuse and the r. Bar. So, against the French army was concentrated 7 cases. The headquarters gave new instructions to the troops: the two corps of the Maas 31 Army of August were to move to the right bank of the river in order to prevent the possible further movement of French troops through Montmedy to Metz. In addition to these corps, two more corps of the blockade army were already located in this direction at the ready of Ethen and Brie. The 3 Army was supposed to continue moving north on August 31. As a result, the army of Albert Saxon, moving along the right bank, closed the eastern exits, the army of the crown prince of Prussia, moving along the left bank, - the western ones. Under the existing military-political situation, it was possible to move the French Chalons army to neutral territory, that is, to Belgium. Therefore, the Belgian government was requested to take measures in this case to disarm the French troops, while the German troops were instructed to immediately cross the border of Belgium if the enemy did not lay down their arms there.
The German command was expecting the movement of the French towards Mezier. The Maasian army was instructed to attack the enemy in the position he occupied in order to chain him with combat. The 3 Army was supposed to leave only one corps on the left bank of the Meuse, the rest of the forces to advance on the right bank.
Marshal MacMahon ordered the concentration of the army to Sedan. Here, French troops were trapped in a narrow area between the right bank of the Meuse River and the Belgian border. The rapid, energetic retreat of the French army along the only remaining Sedan-Mezieres road with the movement of troops bypassing the gorge of Saint-Mange, begun on the night of September 1, could still save the army, at least its combat-ready part. The demand of the French public opinion is to save Bazin’s army, one could try to meet with a report on the battle of Beaumont, pointing out the numerical superiority of the enemy, as well as the passivity of the Rhine army, which nullified the heroic efforts of the Shalonsky army to help out Bazin. However, the battle of Beaumont was not used to break the political impasse. The French emperor Napoleon III did not dare to take responsibility for the withdrawal of troops. He was only concerned with concealing from the public the defeat of another French corps, and telegraphed about this battle as a minor skirmish. Marshal McMahon also did not take on such responsibility. He did not want to give battle at Sedan, where he planned to give a short rest to the troops, replenish food supplies, and then retreat to Mezier. As a result, the small fortress became the center of a large concentration of troops.
Thus, Marshal MacMahon did not attempt a retreat. This is due both to the internal state of the demoralized troops and to political reasons. The French army on this day, apparently, was not able to make an orderly marching movement near the enemy, it could only fight where it stood. Departure to Carignan was blocked by the Maass army. The German 3 Army blocked the way to Mezieres. You could still go to Belgium, but there the MacMagon army would most likely be disarmed by the Belgian troops, since Belgium remained neutral, and the Germans threatened the Belgian government with armed intervention if they let the French in and did not disarm them. The German command was expecting MacMahon to retreat to Mezieres. Therefore, a plan was developed according to which the Maass army was to tie up French troops in combat, having crossed the left bank of the Meuse at Remilly and attacked Bazeil. In the meantime, the 3 Army was to advance along the right bank with a detour of the French left flank by the forces of the 11 and 5 corps.
The location of the French troops at Sedan from the rear was covered by a fortress. The Meuse and the valleys of the creeks of Zhivon and Floyan represented serious obstacles. An important point was the mountain Calver near Illy, which was reinforced by the forest Garen lying behind. A road passed through Illy, on which it was possible, in extreme cases, to retreat to neutral territory. The village of Bazeil was a strong stronghold of the French front and formed a ledge. The 120-thousandth army of MacMagon with 419 guns was opposed by the 220-thousandth Prussian army with the 813 guns under the command of Moltke.
In order to detain the enemy, early in the morning of September 1, 1870 of the 1 I brigade of the General Dance Bavarian corps passed over pontoon bridges over the Meuse and launched an offensive against Bazeil. The Germans broke into the village, but the streets were blocked by barricades, and from the houses they were firing dense fire. Here, the defense kept the French marines. Began a stubborn battle. The French fiercely resisted, and the assault had to take every house. Both sides began to throw fresh reinforcements into battle. So, the French entered the battle of the brigade 12-th, 1-th and 5-th corps. Locals actively supported the French soldiers.
The writer Emil Zola, who created the novel “Defeat,” on the heels of the events, described what was happening: “Bazeil turned into a solid bonfire. Flames burst from the high windows of the church ... Fires spread from kerosene from abandoned armfuls of flaming straw: a war of savages, infuriated by a long struggle, avenging for comrades, for the piles of the dead, which they walked on, began. German gangs were shouting in the smoke, among the sparks, among the deafening hum in which all sounds mixed - the moans of the dying, gunshots, the crash of collapsing houses ... In all corners they killed, destroyed more and more: it was a raging wild beast, blind, raging anger, violent rabies; man devoured man. "
As a result, the bloody battle with varying success lasted several hours. Especially for Villa Berman, located in front of the exit, from where the main road was shot lengthwise. Strong German artillery from the left edge of the Maas valley could not support their troops, because in the village, which was already partially burning, the troops were mixed, often changing positions. Only about 8 hours, when the 8-I Prussian division approached, and Tann threw his last brigade into battle, there was a turning point. The Germans stormed the Monwiller Castle Park, surrounded by a stone wall, and captured the entrance to Berman's Villa. After that, at 9 an hour. Artillery crossed the river and the 8-Prussian division entered the battle.
Simultaneously with the attack of Baseil, the right wing of the Bavarians entered the battle north of Baseil at La Monsel. In this direction already in 5 hour. In the morning, the commander of the 12 Corps sent seven battalions of vanguard from Dusi. They knocked out the French from Montsel, advanced to Platey-Neri and the bridge there, and, despite strong enemy fire, captured a springboard on the Ghivon creek.
Meanwhile, the crisis in the French command continued. Marshal MacMahon is already in the b hour. in the morning, at Monsel, was wounded by a grenade shard. He transferred the command of the army to General Auguste-Alexander Ducrot. The new commander, under the threat of encirclement of the army, gave orders that the troops should concentrate on Illy and then immediately begin a retreat to Mezieres. He sent a division of Lartigue to ensure the transfer at Deni. The remaining troops of the 12 Corps were to continue the battle to gain time for the retreat of other units. The movement of troops began when the order was canceled. Having submitted the secret order of the Minister of War to join the army command in the event of the loss of Marshal MacMahon, General Emmanuel-Félix de Wimpfen, who led the 5 Corps instead of General Faye, demanded the transfer of authority to him. Ducrot complied without objection (it is possible that he was even glad to be freed from heavy responsibility) and the withdrawing divisions of the second line received orders to return.
Wimpfen believed that the retreat to Mezieres was a sure death, as the troops of the Prussian crown prince reached Donsheri, and therefore ordered them to move towards Carignan towards Metz. He planned to push aside with the forces of 1 and 12 of Bavarians at Bazeil, and then defeat the Germans right wing. Thus, Wimpfen hoped to break through to Bazin's army.
As a result, a stubborn battle broke out in the area of Monsel. At first, the French divisions pushed the weak Bavarian and Saxon avant-gardes far ahead. The battle was fierce and it came to bayonet attacks. Meanwhile, the Germans formed a strong artillery line. But the French in the Givons Valley received reinforcements and the heavy rifle chains of the French drove about an hour for 9. German batteries to retreat. The Germans quickly recovered, formed a new artillery line, which drove the French back into the valley, and then took the same position. Meanwhile, the 4-I Bavarian brigade arrived at La Monsel, the 46-I Saxon brigade also approached, which stopped the French offensive. With the advent of parts of the 24 Division, the Germans again launched an offensive. The French were driven back to Deni with the loss of a few guns. With the support of the Bavarians, advancing along the valley to the north, the French troops pushed even more back, despite their stubborn resistance. About 10 hours to the upper reaches of the river. Givon arrived Prussian Guards Corps. At the same time, in the 10 hour, the German 4 th corps approached the Basel: the 7 Division I - towards Lamekur and the 8 Division - towards Remilly. As a result, the French attack at Baseil and Denis were repelled.
Meanwhile, the encirclement ring around the French army was shrinking. Having crossed at night at Donsheri through the Meuse, the 5 and 11 corps of the 3 Prussian army with the Württemberg division blocked the retreat to Mezier, bypassed the left flank of the French army, occupying the villages of Flouinne, Saint-Mange and Flaynier and entering the neighborhood Sedan. Prussian case batteries occupied heights southeast of Saint-Mange. Covered at first only with cavalry and a few infantry, these batteries represented the tempting target of an attack for General Margherit's French cavalry division. General Galife with three regiments of African rangers and two lance squadrons built in three lines, launched an attack. Not having achieved serious success and having fallen under heavy rifle-artillery fire, the French cavalry suffered heavy losses and turned back, taking refuge in the forest of Garen.
Thus, in the 10 hours, when the French offensive near Bazeil and Deny finally died out, and the batteries of the 11 and 5 German corps took up positions southeast of Saint-Mange, the ring around Sedan was almost closed. On the left bank of the Maas, one Bavarian corps was enough, along with an artillery reserve, to prevent any French breakthrough this way; on the right bank of the Meuse there are five corps in full readiness for the offensive.
The Bavarians and Saxons, supported by the vanguard of the 4 Corps, moved forward from the burning Baseil and from La Monsel. The troops of the 12 of the French Corps, to the east of Balan, despite fierce resistance, were pushed back to the Fon de Givon. Having put itself in order, the 5-I Bavarian brigade again launched an offensive in the area of the village of Balan. In the village itself, the Germans met only weak resistance, but the park of the castle, located at the exit of the village, could only be taken after a violent assault. From there, shortly after noon, the advanced battalion reached the very walls of the Sedan Fortress, tying up a shootout with the garrison. After receiving reinforcements, the French soon after 1 an hour. of the day they launched a strong counterattack prepared by shelling and mitraliez. 5-I Bavarian brigade was pushed aside for some distance, but then, with the help of the 6-brigade, after an hour of battle, returned the entire lost position.
The Saxon corps advanced in the valley to the north towards Givon. The forward detachments of the guard corps had already broken through there and into Gob. At noon, the hussars established a direct connection with the left wing of the 3 Army. Prussian artillery actively trashed French positions, successfully fought a counter battery. French batteries could not compete with the German ones. The French counterattacked several times, but without much success. The Garen forest, in which the main forces of the French army were concentrated, came under fire. The French also tried to break through to Fluan. But even there the encirclement was strengthened and the French who broke into the village were soon knocked out.
The French army hit the crossfire of the Maas army 26 batteries with guards battery fire on the eastern slope of the Givon valley. The action of Prussian artillery fire was overwhelming. Many French batteries were destroyed, and the charging boxes were blown up, some batteries were captured by rapidly advancing Prussian troops. Thus, by the 12 watch the French army was already completely surrounded. Batteries Prussian corps smashed French troops.
End the battle. Results
General Wimpfen at first considered the movement of Prussian troops from the north only a demonstration, but at noon he was convinced of the seriousness of the situation on the spot. The French general ordered both divisions, which were in the second line behind the front of the 1 corps along the river. Hivon, move to the height of Illy to support General Douai. Returning then to the 12 Corps, he found him in complete disarray in the retreat to the Sedan and demanded that General Dué send reinforcements in the direction of Bazeil. All these intersecting marches took place in the space to the south of the Garen forest, which was already completely swept by Prussian artillery. The departing cavalry increased the disorder, and many battalions, having lost order, fled to the protection of the forest. Although General Duee, supported by parts of the 5 Corps, beat off the Culver mountain, he had to leave it in the 2 hours. As a result, the Garen Forest came under 60 shelling of guns of the guard corps.
At the same time, the French division was crushed, which held a very strong position at heights to the north of Casal. Only when the Germans concentrated sufficient forces from the 5 and 11 corps at Fluan, could they break through the French defense. The battle was stubborn, for quite a long time the bloody battle went on with varying success. However, crushing from two sides, showered with grenades, the French division was finally broken, since the reserves of the 7 of the French corps had already been sent to other parts of the battlefield.
Only the French cavalry tried to support their infantry. General Marguerite launched an attack with five light and two lancer regiments. When at the very beginning of the battle he fell seriously wounded, the command was taken by General Galyfeh. The onset of the French cavalry took place mainly in uncomfortable terrain, and just before the attack itself, under heavy flank fire from the Prussian batteries, the closeness of the cavalry was destroyed. With sparse ranks, but with complete decisiveness, the French squadrons attack the 43 infantry brigade and the reinforcements coming from Flenier separately. The front line of the Prussian brigade was broken in many places. French cuirassiers suddenly emerged from Gole, and walked through the rear of the enemy, but in the valley of the Meuse, they encountered Prussian hussars. Other French units broke through the infantry to the gorge of Saint-Albert, where they were met by German battalions coming out of there, or invaded Flouane and became victims of the 5 th Jäger battalion.
Moltke described the final stage of the attack of the French cavalry: “The attack of the French, repeated in different directions, continues for half an hour a fierce dump, but with less and less success. Confident infantry fire from short distances covers the entire field with wounded and killed horsemen. Many fall into the quarries or fall from the steep slopes, few managed to swim across the Meuse, and barely half of the brave men return under the protection of the forest. ” Thus, the desperate courage of the French riders could not change the fate of the battle.
About 3 hour. French troops retreated to their last refuge, the Garin forest. Before 500, guns from both banks of the Meuse were smashed by retreating. The French commander Wimpfen tried to reverse the course of the battle and returned to his original plan: to overthrow the Bavarians exhausted by the battle and with 1, 5 and 12 cases to break through to Carignan, while the 7 body had to cover this offensive from the rear . But the necessary orders either did not reach the corps, or were received too late, when they had already become impracticable. Only part of the troops went into the last attack. The divisions of Goze and Granshana went on the offensive from Givon through the height to the east of it. The 23-I Saxon Division, which was on the march up the valley on the left bank of the r. Givon, and quite unexpectedly, was attacked by closed French battalions and batteries. However, with the support of the left wing of the Guards Corps and artillery fire from the eastern slope of the valley, the Saxons managed to repel a desperate French attack. The energy of the French was exhausted, they surrendered to the captivity by the hundreds.
After that, the Germans attacked the Garen Forest, where French troops from all corps and branches of the armed forces roamed in chaos. The French had no resistance anymore. Some detachments of the French fiercely fought back, while others surrendered to captivity in the thousands. By the 5 watch, the Prussians took the Garen Forest. At the same time, French troops in disarray poured into the sedan. Inside the fortress and directly around it, more and more dense and disorderly crowds of troops gathered, and during this chaos, grenades of hundreds of German guns were beating from both banks of the Meuse. In total, about 80 thousand French soldiers gathered in Sedan.
It is worth noting that the French emperor capitulated even before the army. Before the end of the battle in the forest, Garen Napoleon III ordered the white flag to be raised above the town hall and sent a respectful note to Wilhelm. Emperor Napoleon refused to follow General Wimpfen on his last attempt at a breakthrough and demanded to enter into negotiations with the enemy. Napoleon transferred his sword to the Prussian king, and sent an authorized officer to negotiate with General Moltke about the surrender of the French army. This sad assignment fell to the share of General Wimpfen, who was not guilty of the Sedana catastrophe; the French army was taken to the slaughter by completely different people.
Negotiations took place on the night of September 2 in Donsheri. In view of the obvious impossibility of further resistance, General Wimpfen signed a surrender on the morning of September 2. The French army was disarmed and captured, but the release of officers was allowed on parole. Two German corps guarded the prisoners and escorted them while withdrawing to the rear. Convoying took place in 2 units, thousand people. along two roads to Eten and through Clermont to Pont-a-Muson, where the prisoners were taken, taken by the Metz siege army and sent on to various places in Germany.
The battle of Sedan was decisive during the Franco-Prussian war. The loss of the French in it amounted to 3 thousands of people killed, 14 thousand wounded, 21 thousand prisoners; 63 more thousands of people surrendered in Sedan, and 3 thousands were disarmed in Belgium. Among the prisoners were all the command of the French army, and the emperor Napoleon III. The military trophies of the Prussians were: 3 banner, 419 field and 139 serf guns, 66 thousand rifles, more than 1 thousand wagons and 6 thousand more horses. The Prussians lost about 9 thousand people: more than 3 thousand people killed and missing, about 6 thousand wounded.
The defeat of the army of MacMahon finally opened the way for the Prussians to Paris. France lost almost all regular troops, new units more resembled the militia, and there was no chance of winning the war. The imprisonment of Emperor Napoleon III was the end of the Second Empire in France and the beginning of the establishment of the Third Republic.
Napoleon III and Otto von Bismarck after the defeat of the French in Sedan