Siege of Strasbourg
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|Siege of Strasbourg|
|Part of the Franco-Prussian War|
Strasbourg in ruins after the siege
|Commanders and leaders|
|August von Werder||General Uhrich|
|Casualties and losses|
After the Battle of Wörth, Crown Prince Frederick detached General August von Werder to move south against the fortress of Strasbourg. At the time, Strasbourg (along with Metz) was considered to be one of the strongest fortresses in France. Werder's force was made up of 40,000 troops from Württemberg and Baden, which lay just across the Rhine from Strasbourg. The French garrison of 17,000 was under the command of the 68-year-old General Jean Jacques Alexis Uhrich.
Werder understood the value of capturing the city, and ruled out a lengthy siege of starvation. He instead decided on a quicker action, bombarding the fortifications and the civilian population into submission.
On 23 August Werder's siege guns opened fire on the city and caused considerable damage to the city and many of its historical landmarks. The Bishop of Strasbourg went to Werder to beg for a ceasefire, and the civilian population suggested paying 100,000 francs to Werder each day he did not bomb the city. Uhrich refused to relent, and soon enough Werder realized he could not keep up such a bombardment with the amount of ammunition he had.
On 24 August, the Museum of Fine Arts was destroyed by fire, as was the Municipal Library housed in the Gothic former Dominican Church, with its unique collection of medieval manuscripts, rare Renaissance books and Roman artifacts.
Werder continued bombing the city, this time targeting selected fortifications. The German siege lines moved rapidly closer to the city as each fortress was turned into rubble. On 11 September, a delegation of Swiss officials went into the city to evacuate non-combatants. This delegation brought in news of the defeat of the French at the Battle of Sedan, which meant no relief was coming to Strasbourg. On 19 September the remaining civilians urged Uhrich to surrender the city, but he refused, believing a defense was still possible. However, that same day Werder stormed and captured the first of the city's fortifications. This event caused Uhrich to reconsider his ability to defend the city. On 27 September Uhrich opened negotiations with Werder, and the city surrendered the following day.
The fall of Strasbourg freed Werder's forces for further operations in northeastern France. His next move was against the city of Belfort, which was invested in November.