BLTC Press Titles

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Franco-German War of 1870

by United States. General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth



Captain S. C. Pratt, R. R.


To review the political causes of the war of 1870, and sketch the tortuous course of policy which placed Prussia in the position of leader of the German race, would entail a study of Continental politics from the commencement of the century. By violation of numerous treaties, by wholesale annexation of the minor states, and finally by the expulsion of Austria from Germany, she became invested with the military supremacy, and a popular war with a foreign power was all that was necessary to re-establish the ancient German Empire and secure the long desired unity of the German peoples. In France, on the other hand, the growing power of her ancient enemy, the astounding suc

*This short precis of the 1870-1 campaign has been written in the belief that it will be acceptable 'to many officers who would not consult a more lengthy account. It may also be of advantage to those entering upon the study of the campaign; forming, as it does, a framework the details for the filling up of which are at hand in the many histories now issued. Some difficulty has been experienced in finding out the actual numbers engaged in the several battles. The German official accounts, though perfectly accurate in the detail they give, do not take into consideration the troops outside the zone of fire, who in many cases affected the result of the engagement. For this reason, in more than one instance, the approximate numbers given by Lecomte have been adopted. To compress the description of several distinct campaigns into a few pages necessitates the omission of many minor facts and the suppression of much detail. How far the judgment of the writer has been sound in his work of excision must be left to the opinion of the military student.

cesses of the six weeks' war, and the unsuccessful attempts to obtain a rectification of the Rhine frontier, had aroused a feeling of bitter hostility. France alone was determinedly hostile to German unity; Prussia was open to an arrangement, Austria was too enfeebled by the Sadowa campaign to interfere, and England had notoriously withdrawn herself from the complications of Continental politics. The pretensions of the two great rivals had to be decided on the battle-field and the immediate cause of rupture is a matter of little importance. A diplomatic quarrel arising from the offer of the Spanish throne to the Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen afforded a plausible pretext for war, which was formally declared by the French on the 19th July, 1870.

Previous to entering upon a description of the campaign, it will be necessary to refer briefly to the system of recruitment and the comparative military position of the two rival armies.

The military organization of the German forces was based on territorial divisions corresponding more or less to the civil ones; thus the provinces each furnished a corps d'armee, the districts a brigade, and the circles or parishes a battalion. Every German was liable for service, no substitution was permitted, and persons unfit to serve under arms were allotted to the non-combatant branches as hospital attendants, military tradesmen, &c. Liability to army service lasted 12 years, of which 3 were passed in the standing army, 4 in the reserve, apd 5 in the Landwehr. In case of invasion, the Landsturm, or entire able-bodied population (up to the age of 42), could, in addition, be called to arms. To alleviate the burden of compulsory enrollment, a system of liberal exemptions was organized; the bulk of the men passed over, forming what was called the Ersatz Reserve. The army in peace time was thus composed of four distinct classes:—

1. The standing army; or the men actually in the ranks.

2. The reserves, or men who had passed through the ranks and were liable to be re-called at once to the colors, and bring up the army to its war strength.

3. The Landwehr; or men who had passed through both army and reserve—who were separately organized in Landwehr battalions and constituted a 2nd line of defense.

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