Gravelotte-St. Privat, Battle of


Gravelotte-St. Privat, Battle of
(1870)
   One of the largest and most important engagements of the Franco-Prussian War. By mid-August of 1870, the invading German armies faced east; and the French army faced west, its back to the German frontier and to the key French fortress of Metz. The French commander, Marshal François Achille Bazaine, chose to fall back on Metz and spaced out his forces along a strong defensive ridge from Gravelotte in the south to St. Privat in the north. General Helmuth von Moltke intended to use his artillery to weaken the French, then outflank the French position around St. Privat and roll up the French lines from north to south, but subordinates launched frontal assaults on prepared French positions. German artillery took a toll on the French, but French rifle fire tore up the German attacks.
   By the evening, it appeared that the Germans were at the end of their tether, and a counterattack by the French would have carried the day. Instead, Bazaine ordered the troops to hold their positions. This gave the Germans time to conduct their flanking move around St. Privat, and the French were forced to retreat to the false security of Metz, where they were besieged. French losses were nearly 13,000; the Germans lost more than 20,000 men.
   FURTHER READING:
    Howard, Michael. The Franco-Prussian War. New York: Collier, 1969.
   DAVID H. OLIVIER

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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