Friday, January 28, 2005

On this day in military 1871 (French Defeat Edition)

On this day in military history….in 1871. Paris surrenders to the Prussians and ends the Franco-Prussian War. The war began over the possible accession of a German candidate to the Spanish throne. Napoleon III was opposed to this and issued an ultimatum to the King of Prussian, who told him to mind his own business. Unfortunately for the French, the Chancellor of Prussia was Otto “Blood and Iron” von Bismarck who ended up publishing the negotiations between the King of Prussia and the French. Airing French “dirty laundry” in public outraged Napoleon III so much, that in a fit of anger, he declared war on Prussia on July 19, 1870.

The French struck first by capturing Saarbrücken, but after that, it was all down hill for the French. The Prussians handed the French defeat after crushing defeat at the Battles of Wissembourg, Spicheren, Worth/Fröschweiler, Mars-la-Tour, Gravelotte, and Sedan (where Napoleon II was captured) and the Sieges of Metz and Paris. In all, the war lasted six months.

The aftermath of the war was that France was forced to become a republic (loss of king), Germany was united under the Prussian crown and the Papal States were seized by Italy (thereby uniting Italy) when they lost their French protection. France had to surrender the region of Alsace-Lorraine to the Germans and pay a war indemnity of 5000 million francs. So now we know why the French are so quick to surrender to the Germans. It’s habit-forming.


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