The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871), was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria.
The militaristic fever that preceded World War I stemmed largely from the Franco-Prussian War, a conflict between Germany and France during 1870 and 1871. The Germans sadly beat the French on French soil. In the ensuing peace, Germany received the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, a precarious peace for the remainder of the 19th century.
...German victory was due to superior military organization and the superior military education of its Army. The War had shown that a small professional army was no longer an effective fighting force and that any continental power that wanted to escape annihilation had better imitate the German model and create a Nation in Arms.
Although balloonists had no control over their direction, 58 of the 66 that left Paris during the siege made it safely to friendly territory, carrying 102 passengers, more than 400 pigeons, and approximately 2.5 million letters.
The success of the Paris airlift, combined with the lessons from the American Civil War, convinced the major European powers to add a balloon corps to their military arsenal. The French were the first to do so in 1874, and all of the major powers followed suit within 10 years.
The Second German Empire was proclaimed on 18 January 1871, the culmination of a political, economic, diplomatic and military process concluded by Prussia's military defeat of Austria in 1866 at Koniggratz and her victory over France at Sedan in 1870. The disparate German lands were unified by 'blood and iron'.
On October 7 a balloon rises from Paris... [carrying] Léon Gambetta, minister of the interior in the new republican government. Two days later he reaches Tours and begins to orchestrate a campaign of guerrilla warfare which severely disrupts the smooth Prussian military operation.
But it can only delay the eventual capitulation. Early in 1871, on January 23, delegates from Paris pass through the German lines to Versailles to agree to an armistice.
After France suffered a crushing military defeat at Sedan, which left Paris under siege and isolated, French ballooning enthusiast Gaspard Félix Tournachon, known popularly as Nadar, approached officials of the new Third Republic and convinced them to use balloons in the defense of Paris and as part of the postal service so that Paris could remain in contact with the rest of France. On 23 September 1870 the balloon Neptune succeeded in escaping from the city and drifting over Prussian lines before finally descending 11 hours later some 60 miles away at Evreux.
...the battle of Sedan took place. The French lost this fight on September 1st; the emperor and thousands of his men are imprisoned. The army of Chalons is destroyed and the remaining men flee where they can. The imperial surrender provoked in Paris marks the decline of Napoleon III and his regime. The [Third] Republic is proclaimed on the 4th of September and a government of the National Defence is constituted and made up of Parisian deputies like Jules Favre, Jules Ferry, Jules Simon, Leon Gambetta, etc.
...at Gravelotte, a village somewhat nearer to Metz, the armies, somewhat recovered from the terrible struggle of the 14th, met again, the whole German army being now brought up, so that over 200,000 men faced the 140,000 of the French. It was the great battle of the war. For four hours the two armies stood fighting face to face, without any special result, neither being able to drive back the other. The French held their ground and died. The Prussians dashed upon them and died. Only late in the evening was the right wing of the French army broken, and the victory, which at five o'clock remained uncertain, was decided in favor of the Germans. More than 40,000 men lay dead and wounded upon the field, the terrible harvest of those nine hours of conflict.
Two days later occurred a battle which decided the fate of the whole war, that of Worth-Reideshofen, where the army of the crown prince met that of MacMahon, and after a desperate struggle, which continued for fifteen hours, completely defeated him, with very heavy losses on both sides. MacMahon retreated in haste towards the army at Chalons, while the crown prince took possession of Alsace, and prepared for the reduction of the fortresses on the Rhine, from Strasburg to Belfort.
...combination of overlapping infantry attacks and massed artillery barrages and massed artillery barrages finally broke the French, who backed off the Rote Berg toward Spicheren and then, as darkness fell at 9 o'clock, yielded the entire plateau, flooding in opposite directions down the roads to Sarreguemines and Forbach...
...Prussia's massive casualties at Spicheren ought to have tempered all delighted comparisons with 1866...Whereas the Prussians had routinely killed or wounded four Austrians for every Prussian casualty in 1866, they lost two men for every French casualty at Spicheren.
...[General Charles Abel] Douay, attempting to organize his forces for a withdrawal, had been killed by a shellburst...The increasing shellfire was shattering the French resistance...
The town of Wissembourg fell between 1 and 2 p.m. The Geissberg held out for an hour or so longer...About a thousand Frenchmen were prisoner; a further thousand were dead or wounded; the rest were streaming miserably back along the road to Soultz.
Antoine Agenor Alfred, duc de Gramont, the French foreign minister, demanded that William submit a personal letter of apology to Napoleon III and a guarantee that the Hohenzollern candidacy would never be renewed. In an interview with Benedetti at Ems, the Prussian king rejected the French demands. The same day, Bismarck obtained William's authorization to publish the French demands and the Prussian rejection contained in what was known as the Ems Dispatch. Bismarck edited the document in a manner calculated to aggravate the resentment of the French and the Germans. The Prussian statesman realized that this move would in all probability precipitate war, but he knew that Prussia was prepared, and he counted on the psychological effect of a French declaration of war to rally the south German states to Prussia's cause, thus accomplishing the final phase in the unification of Germany.
The event directly precipitating the Franco-Prussian War was the candidacy of Leopold, prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, for the throne of Spain, rendered vacant by the Spanish revolution of 1868. Leopold had accepted the candidacy under persuasion from Bismarck. The French government, alarmed at the possibility of a Prusso-Spanish alliance resulting from the occupancy of the Spanish throne by a member of the Hohenzollern dynastic family, threatened Prussia with war if Leopold's candidacy was not withdrawn. The French ambassador to the Prussian court, Comte Vincente Benedetti, was dispatched to Ems, a spa in northwestern Germany being visited by William I, king of Prussia. Benedetti had been instructed to demand that the Prussian monarch order Prince Leopold to withdraw his candidacy. William, although angered, gave Benedetti permission to communicate directly with Leopold by telegraph. Leopold could not be reached, but his father, Prince Charles Anthony, wired a retraction of the candidacy in the name of his son.