Army of Châlons

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Armée de Châlons (1870)
Macmahon.jpg
Active 1870
Country  France
Allegiance Second French Empire
Branch French Army
Type Infantry Division
Role Infantry
Size

120000

1st Army Corps
5th Army Corps
7th Army Corps
12th Army Corps
Engagements

Franco-Prussian War

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Maréchal Mac Mahon

The Army de Châlons (French: Armée de Châlons (1870)) was a French military unit that fought during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Formed in the camp of Châlons on August 17, 1870 from elements of the Army of the Rhin (1870) (French: Armée du Rhin (1870)) which the unit was issued from, the Army of Châlons was engaged in combats of Beaumont and Sedan while disappearing during the capitulation of September 2, 1870.

Creation of the unit[edit]

Following the unfortunate adventures of the Army of the Rhin (1870) (French: Armée du Rhin (1870)) in the beginning of August at Wissembourg, Wörth, Forbach, Empress Eugénie designated régente , summoned the two chambers on August 9, 1870. Three days later, the Emperor decided to confine the commandement of the Army of the Rhin to marshal Bazaine.[1]

On August 17, the Emperor was at Châlons and, during a reduced war council, the latter decided the nomination of de Bazaine as généralissime of the french armed forces, of général Trochu as governor of Paris and de Mac Mahon as commander of the Army of Châlons.[2] Accordingly, this new army constituted of available elements, compromised the 1st Corps, which joined the camp of Châlons between August 14 and 17, the 5th Corps of général Failly, the 7th Corps of général Douay, and the 12th Corps recently formed, constituted from infantry regiments still available, marching regiments formed by the 4 battalions left in the depot and regiments of the Guard. Accordingly, the four armed corps were assembled at Reims on August 20, 1870.[3]

Chronology of operations[edit]

March on Sedan of the Army of Châlons

While Mac Mahon wished to retreat on Paris in order to reconstitute his army, consultations convinced him of rescuing Bazaine which unfolded on Metz following new engagements at Rezonville and Saint-Privat on August 16 and 18. Mac Mahon decided on August 23 to leave Reims and marched towards the north-east in order to pass Meuse between Sedan and Verdun.

While the four corps of Mac Mahon made way north-east, the German Army, strong of previous successes reorganized in two groups:

  • In front of Metz, the Ist Army, four corps of the IInd and one division.
  • Opposed to the Army of Châlons, the IIIrd Army, constituted of five corps, was associated to a new army, the Army of the Meuse or IV army, compromised of three army corps and four cavlary divisions.[4] The ensemble represented 188000 fantassins, 36000 cavaliers and more than 810 pieces of artillery.[5]

The progression of the French Army was slow, and the latter was caught up by the German troops before reaching Meuse. On the 29, following a first confrontation at Nouart with the XII Corps Saxon, the 5th corps of de Failly garrisoned at Beaumont. Around noon time, on August 30, the first shells hit the camp.[6] Three German armed corps engaged the troops of Beaumont: the Ist corps bavarois on the left, the IV corps prussien at the center and the XXI corps saxon to the right. Despite the resistance of the infantry and the relaunching of combats at Mouzon with the unfortunate heroic charge of the 5th Cuirassiers,[7] the corps of de Failly was defeated and had to retreat on Sedan.

Main article: Battle of Beaumont

The battle of Beaumont had for consequence the renunciation of Marshal Mac Mahon to come and rescue Bazaine at Metz. Contrary, he unfolded since August 30 the different corps on the cities of Bazeilles and Sedan.[8]

Général Wimpffen, commander-in-chief of the Army of Châlons at Sedan.

On the 31st, the Ist Corps Bavarois of général Von der Tann confronted the 12th Corps while apprehending the pont de chemin de fer which was along Meuse south of Bazeilles.[9] The next day, on September 1, 1870, the IIIrd and IV German corps attacked the ensemble of the armies of Mac Mahon positionned in the two cities. The marshal was wounded[10] while searching to join the command of the 12th Corps, général Lebrun, attacked by the Ist Corps Bavarois at Bazeilles. First replaced by général Ducrot, the command of the army was replaced, under orders of the minister of war, to général Winpffen, recently named at the head of the 5th Army Corps. The German Army finished by encircling the ensemble of the army which unfolded on the citadelle in Sedan.[11] On the morning of September 2, the capitulation was in effect. This battle witnissed the disappearing of the Army of Châlons, which consisted the loss of 124000 men for France.[12]

Main article: Battle of Bazeilles

Composition and order of battle[edit]

On August 23, 1870, the Army of Châlons was constituted of four Army Corps along with artillery and cavalry reserves, consisting of 105000 fantassins, 14709 cavaliers, 393 pieces of artillery and 76 mitrailleuses. Lieutenant-colonel Rousset gave a, estimative decomposition by grand units:[13]

Army of Châlons
Fantassins Cavaliers Artillery Mitrailleuses
1st Army Corps 26,000 2,500 84 22
5th Army Corps 18,000 1,496 61 18
7th Army Corps 25,000 2,400 78 18
12th Army Corps 36,000 4,200 150 18
Reserve cavalry - 4,113 14 -
Reserve artillery - - 6 -

Commandement & état-major[edit]

Général Forgeot, commander of the artillery.
  • Commander-in-chief : Marshal Mac Mahon, duc de Magenta then général Wimpffen (Septembre 1)
  • Chef d'état-major général : général Faure
  • Commander of the Artillery : général Forgeot
  • Commander of the Engineers : général Dejean
  • Intendant général : intendant général Vigo-Roussillon

1st Army Corps[edit]

Général Ducrot, commander of the 1st Army Corps.

The 1st Army Corps (French: 1er Corps d'Armée) was commanded by général Ducrot, with headquarter staff, colonel Robert. Général Ducrot, former regimental commander of the 1st Division, succeeded Marshal Mac Mahon which recently assumed the command of the Army of Châlons. Général Frigola commanded the artillery.

1st Infantry Division

The 1st Infantry Division of the 1st Army Corps was under the orders of général Wolff

2nd Infantry Division

The 2nd Infantry Division of the 1st Army Corps was under the orders of général Pellé

3rd Infantry Division

The 3rd Infantry Division of the 1st Army Corps was under the orders of général l'Héritier

4th Infantry Division

The 4th Infantry Division of the 1st Army Corps was under the orders of général de Lartigue

Cavalry Division

The Cavalry Division of the 1st Army Corps was commanded by général Duhesme which was replaced on August 25 by général Michel

Reserve Artillery

5th Army Corps[edit]

Général de Failly, commander of the 5th Army Corps.

The 5th Army Corps (French: 5e Corps d'Armée) was commanded by général de Failly, with headquarter staff général Besson.

1st Infantry Division

The 1st Infantry Division of the 5th Army Corps was under the orders of général Goze.

2nd Infantry Division

The 2nd infantry Division of the 5th Army Coprs was under the orders of général de l'Abadie d'Aydren.

3rd Infantry Division

The 3rd Infantry Division of the 5th Army Corps was under the orders of général Guyot de Lespart

Cavalry Division

The Cavalry Division of the 5th Army Corps was commanded by général Brahaut

Reserve Artillery

Colonel Adolphe Louis Émile Frédéric de Salignac-Fénelon

  • 2 Artillery Batteries de 12,
  • 2 Artillery Batteries de 4 mounted,
  • 2 Artillery Batteries de 4 horse mounted.

7th Army Corps[edit]

Général Douay, commander of the 7th Army Corps.

The 7th Army Corps (French: 7e corps d'armée) was commanded by général Douay, with headquarter staff général Renson.

1st Infantry Division

The 1st Infantry Division of the 7th Army Corps was under the orders of général Conseil-Dumesnil

2nd Infantry Division

The 2nd Infantry Division of the 7th Army Corps was under the orders of général Liébert.

3rd Infantry Division

The 3rd Infantry Division of the 7th Army Corps was under the orders of général Dumont

Cavalry Division
Général Ameil, commander of the cavalry division of the 7th Army Corps.

The Cavalry Division of the 7th Army Corps was commanded by général baron Ameil

Reserve Artillery

Colonel Aubac

  • 2 Artillery Batteries de 12,
  • 2 Artillery Batteries de 4 mounted,
  • 2 Artillery Batteries de 4 horse mounted.

12th Army Corps[edit]

The 12th Army Corps (French: 12e corps d'armée) was commanded by général Lebrun, with headquarter staff général Gresley.

1st Infantry Division

The 1st Infantry Division of the 12th Army Corps was under the orders of général Grandchamp.

2nd Infantry Division

The 2nd Infantry Division of the 12th Army Corps was under the orders of général Lagretelle.

Général de Vassoigne, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the 12th Army Corps.
3rd Infantry Division

The 3rd Infantry Division of the 12th Army Corps was under the orders of général de Vassoigne.

Cavalry Division

The Cavalry Division of the 12th Army Corps was commanded by général Lichtlin

Cavalry Division of the 6th Corps

The Cavalry Division of the 6th Army Corps was commanded by général de Salignac-Fénelon'

Reserve Artillery
  • Artillery Reserve was under the orders of général Bertrand
    • 8 Artillery Batteries de 4 montées
    • 2 Artillery Batteries de 12 montées
    • 2 Artillery Batteries de 4 (marine artillery)
    • 1 Artillery Battery de mitrailleuses (marine artillery) and 3 Engineer Companies

Reserve and Cavalry[edit]

1st Cavalry Division
Général Margueritte, commander of the 1st Cavalry Reserve Division.

The 1st Reserve Cavalry Division was commanded by général Margueritte

2nd Cavalry Division

The 2nd Reserve Cavalry Division was commanded by général de Bonnemain

References[edit]

  1. ^ In Histoire générale de la guerre franco allemande - 1870-1871, tome 1, page 340.
  2. ^ In Histoire générale de la guerre franco allemande - 1870-1871, tome 2, pages 152 et 153
  3. ^ In Histoire générale de la guerre franco allemande - 1870-1871, tome 1 pages 255 à 260 et tome 2, pages 150 à 152.
  4. ^ La IIIe armée allemande est sous les ordre du Prince royal de Prusse. Elle comprend les Ier et IIe corps bavarois ainsi que les IVe, Ve et VIe corps. La IVe armée allemande est sous les ordre du Prince royal de Saxe. Elle comprend les XIIe et IVe corps et la Garde prussienne. In La guerre de 1870, pages 38 et 39.
  5. ^ In Histoire générale de la guerre franco allemande - 1870-1871, tome 2 page 169.
  6. ^ In La guerre de 1870, pages 38 et 39
  7. ^ La guerre franco-allemande, tome 2 page 251.
  8. ^ In La guerre de 1870, pages 39 et 40.
  9. ^ In Histoire de la guerre de 1870-71, page 61.
  10. ^ In Histoire générale de la guerre franco allemande - 1870-1871, tome 2 page 305.
  11. ^ In La guerre de 1870, pages 42 et 43
  12. ^ Histoire générale de la guerre franco allemande - 1870-1871, tome 2 page 360.
  13. ^ In Histoire générale de la guerre franco allemande - 1870-1871, tome 2, pages 166 et 167.

Sources et bibliographie[edit]

  • Lieutenant-colonel Rousset, Histoire générale de la guerre franco allemande - 1870-1871, éditions Montgredien et Cie, 1900.
  • Histoire de la guerre de 1870-71, Éditions G. Chamerot, 1903.
  • Général Niox, La guerre de 1870 - Simple récit, Librairie Ch. Delagrave, 1898.
  • Annuaire militaire de l'empire français 1870
  • Howard, Michael, The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France 1870–1871, New York: Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-26671-8.