WarData.net   ~    Franco-Prussian War Timeline Explanation

  This table contains various events related to the Franco-Prussian War of 1879-1871.
The dates are to the nearest day when possible. Those events dated to the nearest year are less certain, naturally, than those dated to the precise day.

WarData.net   ~    Franco-Prussian War Timeline

Event Date Comments

Prussian Army introduces Dreyse needle rifle 1835 The Dreyse "needle gun" (14.53mm) was first issued by the Prussian army on a limited basis in 1835; it was general issue by the Danish War of 1864 and helped to raise battlefield lethality to new levels in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.
French Army introduces the mitrailleuse 1860 With a practical rate of fire of 100 to 200 rounds per minute, the mitrailleuse was unwieldy and hard to deploy; the French had yet to develop effective tactics for its use in 1870 (Wawro, p. 53).
Dreyse needle rifle becomes general issue throughout Prussian Army 1864 The Dreyse was becoming obsolete at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, with an effective range of 400 to 600 yds and a rate of fire of four or five rounds per minute; an infantryman could carry only 70 rounds (Wawro, p. 52).
French Army adopts the Chassepot rifle 1866 The Chassepot had an effective range of 1,000 yds (maximum range of 1,500 yds) and a rate of fire between eight and fifteen rounds a minute; it also had more stopping power than the Dreyse and an infantryman could carry 105 rounds easily (Wawro, p. 52).
Prussian Army adopts Krupp breech-loading artillery 1867 The Prussian Army adopted Krupp breech-loading steel guns, a six-pound field gun, and a 24-pound heavy gun; they had 3x the accuracy, 2x the rate of fire, 1.5x greater range, and many times the destructiveness of the French artillery (Wawro, p. 58).
Roon declares Prussian Army reforms complete October 20, 1867 *****
Demonstration in Paris January 10, 1870 About 100,000 people demonstrate against Bonaparte's Second Empire after the death of Victor Noir, a republican journalist killed by the Emperor's cousin, Pierre Bonaparte.
Spain begins process of offering crown to Prince Leopold April 1870 Badsey, p. 29
News of Hohenzollern Candidature breaks in Paris July 2, 1870 Badsey, p. 29
France threatens war if Hohenzollern Candidature is accepted July 6, 1870 Foreign Minister Duke Agenor de Gramont addressed the Assembly with a public statement from the council that France would pursue 'peace if that is possible, war if that is inevitable' to prevent the Hohenzollern Candidature (Badsey, p. 29).
French Ambassador Benedetti meets with Prussian King Wilhelm at Ems spa July 9, 1870 French Count Benedetti has a friendly meeting with King Wilhelm I of Prussia at the spa of Bad Ems; they discuss the withdrawal of the Hohenzollern Candidature (Badsey, p. 29).
France orders recall of troops from Algeria July 9, 1870 Howard, p. 67
Napoleon III reorganizes army command structure July 11, 1870 There was now to be only one army, of eight corps, under his personal command, and the three marshals would be compensated with the command of exceptionally large corps, three divisions strong instead of two (Howard, p. 63).
Prussian military attache in France tells King Wilhelm about France's preparations for war July 11, 1870 Orders for forage were placed, commissions attached to railway companies, officers recalled from leave, and transports prepared in Toulon to collect troops from Algiers and Rome, and artillery depots were bustling with activity (Howard, p. 57).
Prince Karl withdraws his son Leopold from the Hohenzollern Candidature July 12, 1870 Prince Karl Anton withdraws his son Leopold from the Candidature, but the French are not satisfied and Benedetti is ordered to demand a guarantee that Leopold would never accept and an apology from Wilhelm for the insult to France (Badsey, p. 29)
France calls up reservists July 12, 1870 Howard, p. 58
Ambassador Benedetti and Wilhelm I have a final meeting at Ems July 13, 1870 At their final meeting, Wilhelm politely and correctly declines the demand for an apology and also declines further contact with the ambassador. A sensationalized version redrafted by Bismarck appears in Berlin papers the same evening (Badsey, p. 29-30).
France orders full mobilization July 14, 1870 Howard, p. 68
Germany begins mobilization July 15, 1870 Howard, p. 59
France calls up Garde Mobile July 17-18, 1870 Howard, p. 68-69
Elements of four French corps in position before Metz July 18, 1870 Howard, p. 72
France declares war on Prussia beginning the Franco-Prussian War July 19, 1870 The Hohenzollern candidature for the Spanish throne was offered to a relative of the King of Prussia; this was unacceptable to the French and became the causus belli for a war for which the French were willing but unprepared; the Prussian were both.
Austria announces its neutrality July 20, 1870 Howard, p. 64
Napoleon slights General Bazaine July 24, 1870 After having scapegoated General Bazaine for the Mexican debacle of 1866-7, Napoleon III further insulted him by subordinating him to General Leboeuf, much lower on the promotion rosters; the blow to Bazaine's pride was "annihilating" (Wawro, p. 70).
Napoleon III arrives in Metz to take command of the army July 27, 1870 Howard, p. 79
French armies begin advance to Saarbrücken July 31, 1870 Howard, p. 80
Saarbrücken, Battle of August 2, 1870 French capture Saarbrücken (Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 832)
France suspends recruitment of Garde Mobile August 4, 1870 Howard, p. 69
Wissembourg, Battle of August 4, 1870 The advance guard of the Third German Army carried the French position, and captured the town of Weissenburg, at a cost of 91 officers and 1,460 men. The French lost 2,300 killed, wounded and prisoners. French General Abel Donay was killed in the battle.
Spicheren, Battle of August 6, 1870 After an obstinate encounter, the French were driven from all their positions with heavy loss, and compelled to retreat on Metz. The Germans lost 223 officers and 4,648 men. General von Francois was killed in the battle.
A great French victory announced at Paris stock exchange August 6, 1870 *****
Fröeschwiller, Battle of August 6, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 832; Harbottle, p. 304 (Wörth)
General Leboeuf commands the army to concentrate on Châlons August 7, 1870 Wawro, p. 141
Paris newspapers admit General Frossard's corps is in retreat August 7, 1870 Wawro, p. 141
Napoleon gives orders for French army to retire to Châlons August 7, 1870 Howard, p. 123-4
Emperor Napoleon decides to move to the fortress of Metz August 7, 1870 Wawro, p. 141
Napoleon III relinquishes command of the Army of the Rhine to Bazaine August 9, 1870 *****
French Premier Olliver forced to resign August 9, 1870 Howard, Wawro, p. 140; Badsey, p. 37
Emperor Napoleon removes General Leboeuf August 11, 1870 Howard, Wawro, p. 141; Badsey, p. 37
Command of the French armies devolves to General Bazaine August 11, 1870 Wawro, p. 141
Borny, Battle of August 14, 1870 Inconclusive engagement but the battle delayed Bazaine twelve hours in escaping from Metz, allowing the Prussians to swing around and attack from the west. Prussian casualties were 5,000 officers and men; French casualties about 3,500 officers and men.
Emperor Napoleon elevates Bazaine to Generalissimo August 14, 1870 Wawro, p. 141
Colombey, Battle of August 14, 1870 Harbottle, p. 76
Rezonville, Battle of August 16, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 834
Mars-La-Tour, Battle of August 16, 1870 The Germans, though at times very hard pressed, succeeded in holding their ground; desperate and costly charges by the German cavalry against the French infantry, notably Von Bredow's brigade, which allowed the German infantry to reform.
Vionville, Battle of August 16, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 834
Gravelotte-St Privat, Battle of August 18, 1870 The battle was most hotly contested, but while the French held their ground in the neighbourhood of Gravelotte, the Germans turned their right flank at Saint Privat, and they were eventually obliged to abandon all their positions.
Metz, Siege of August 18 - October 26, 1870 Invested by the Germans after the defeat of Bazaine at Gravelotte, and after several half-hearted, poorly-planned and eventually unsuccessful sorties, Bazaine surrenders to Prince Frederick Charles with 3 marshals, 6,000 officers, and 173,000 men.
Advance of MacMahon from Châlons August 21-28, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 835
French sortie from Metz, First August 26/27, 1870 Wawro, p. 196; Howard, p. 261-2
Nouart, Battle of August 29, 1879 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 835
Beaumont, Battle of August 30, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 835; Harbottle, p. 42
Bazeilles, Battle of August 31, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 835
French sortie from Metz, Second August 31 - September 1, 1870 Wawro, p. 198; Howard, p. 262-3
Noisseville, Battle of August 31, 1870 Harbottle, p. 205
Sedan, Battle of September 1, 1870 This was the decisive battle of the war. The French under Marshal Macmahon were driven from all their positions by the Germans retired into Sedan, losing 3,000 killed, 14,000 wounded, and 21,000 prisoners; 83,000 later surrendered along with Napoleon III.
Fall of the Second Empire; Proclamation of the Third Republic September 4, 1870 *****
Paris, First Siege of September 20, 1870 - January 28, 1871 Paris was invested by the main German army, under the King of Prussia and von Moltke, September 20, 1870. In spite of a gallant defence and many sorties, the city surrendered January 28, 1871.
Chevilly, Battle of September 30, 1870 A sortie from Paris under General Vinoy was repulsed by the Sixth German Corps under Von Tumpling, with a loss of 74 officers and 2,046 men. The Germans lost 28 officers and 413 men killed and wounded.
Gambetta leaves Paris by balloon October 7, 1870 Howard, p. 239
Bellevue, Battle of October 18, 1870 Marshal Bazaine unsuccessfully attempted to break through the lines of the Germans investing Metz, and wasdriven back into the city with a loss of 64 officers and 1,193 men. The Germans lost 75 officers and 1,703 men.
French Army surrenders at Metz October 27, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 836
Le Bourget, Battle of October 27 - 30, 1870 A determined sortie by the French from Paris, carrying the village of Le Bourget. They held their ground there until October 30, when they were driven out by the Prussian Guard Corps, losing 1,200 prisoners; the Germans lost 34 officers and 344 men.
Black Monday in Paris October 31, 1870 *****
Revolt of the Gardes Nationales October 31, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 836
Belfort, Siege of November 3, 1870 - February 15, 1871 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 837
Coulmiers, Battle of November 9, 1870 After maintaining their position for the greater part of the day, the Germans were driven back, having lost 576 killed and wounded, 800 prisoners, an ammunition column and 2 guns. The French losses were about 1,500.
Amiens, Battle of November 27, 1870 The French, under General Faure, were compelled to abandon the city, but the Germans, under Manteuffel, failed to secure a decisive victory. French losses were 1,383 killed and wounded, and 1,000 missing; the Germans, 76 officers and 1,216 men.
Beaune-la-Rolande, Battle of November 28, 1870 Wawro, 2003; Harbottle, p. 42
Great Sortie from Paris November 29-30, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 836
Villiers-Champigny, Battle of November 30 - December 3, 1870 A sortie from Paris, under General Ducrot, against the Wurtembergers. On December 3, the French, who had at first gained some successes, were finally repulsed, with a loss of 424 officers and 9,053 men; the Germans, 156 officers and 3,373 men.
Loigny-Pouprey, Battle of December 1, 1870 Harbottle, p. 164-5
Orleans, Battle of December 2-4, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 836; Harbottle, p. 210
Beaugency, Battle of December 8/9, 1870 Wawro, 2003
Second Sortie from Paris December 21, 1870 Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 836
Hallue, Battle of December 23/24, 1870 Inconclusive; Dupuy & Dupuy, p. 836; Harbottle, p. 124
Bapaume, Battle of January 2/3, 1871 The result was indecisive, and though the French gained some tactical successes, the result strategically was an advantage to the Germans, as General Faidherbe was compelled to desist from his attempt to raise the siege of Peronne.
Start of the Bombardment of Paris January 5, 1871 *****
Le Mans, Battle of January 10-12, 1871 A French army 150,000 strong was completely routed by a German force of 50,000; the French force was so completely demoralised as to be no longer an effective fighting unit. The Germans took 20,000 prisoners, losing only 200 officers and 3,200 men.
Belfort, Battle of January 15-17, 1871 *****
Proclamation of the German Empire; Wilhelm I acclaimed emperor at Versailles January 18, 1871 - 1918 *****
Saint Quentin, Battle of January 19, 1871 Victory of Von Goben and 33,000 Germans over the French, 40,000 strong, under General Faidherbe. The French were decisively defeated, with a loss of 3,500 killed and wounded, 9,000 prisoners, and 6 guns. The Germans lost 96 officers and 2,304 men.
Buzenval, Battle of January 19/20, 1871 The French, advancing under cover of a fog, established themselves in the Park of Buzenval for a short time before, unsupported, they were forced to retire. The Germans lost 40 officers and 570 men; the French 189 officers and 3,881 men.
Armistice agreed January 26, 1871 *****
Convention of Versailles; Capitulation of Paris January 28, 1871 The garrison, under the command of General Trochu, made a gallant defence, many serious sorties taking place, but the Germans gradually mastered the outer defences, and finally, being much straitened by famine, the city surrendered January 28, 1871.
Bourbaki's army interned in Switzerland February 1, 1871 *****
Bourbaki's army retreats to Switzerland February 2, 1871 *****
Elections for French national assemby at Bordeaux February 8, 1871 *****
Preliminary peace treaty between France and Germany signed at Versailles February 26, 1871 *****
Germans parade through Paris March 1, 1871 *****
Paris Commune established; Reign of Terror in Paris March 18 - May 28, 1871 *****
Paris, Second Siege of April 2, 1871 *****
Treaty of Frankfurt May 10, 1871 The Treaty of Frankfurt was signed May 10, 1871, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War. It:
* confirmed the Franco-German frontier
* set a framework for the withdrawal of German troops
* regulated payment of a French War Indemnity
Bloody Week in Paris May 21, 1871 *****
End of the Paris Commune May 28, 1871 *****

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