Siege and Fall of Strasbourg Aug 15 - Sept 28 1870
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Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, had 85,000 inhabitants at the time of the war . The nucleus of the defenses is the citadel, with its five bastioned fronts, built by Marshal Vauban in 1685 . Immediately after the s declaration of war with Prussia by France, it seemed as if Strasbourg was to be left untouched by the war, for it was evident that the French invasion of Germany and attack on Cologne must be begun with the right flank turned towards Rhenish Bavaria. But when Southern Germany ranged itself on the Prussian side, the situation of affairs was changed. It became necessary for the French armies to march off hastily in a new direction, and it became more probable that Strasbourg might be seriously threatened.
Map of the battle of Strasbourg .
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All the accounts state that before the battle of Worth, the 6th corps, under the command of Marshal Canrobert, was in and round Strasbourg. After the battle was lost the corps marched off in 31 the direction of Metz, and the garrison of Strasbourg was thus so reduced that the place was left in a bad plight. Not even one company of engineers was left in the now-threatened fortress, and its garrison consisted chiefly of national guards. A great number of stragglers from the battle of Worth found accordingly a welcome reception at Strasburg, and its gates also opened for the reception of many thousands of fugitive country- people.
Strasbourg under bombardment
The Illustrated London News
The preparations for putting the works and armaments in a state of siege were, just commenced, when the enemy appeared in the vicinity of the fortress 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 River from Strasbourg. The French garrison of 17,000 was under the command of the 68-year-old General Jean Jacques Alexis Uhrich.
Prussian general August von Werder (1808-88)
On the 8th August the head of the division arrived before Strasbourg. It was believed that the fortress was occupied almost exclusively by national guards, and it was well known that the preparation of the works for a siege was incomplete. Lieutenant- General von Beyer, commanding the division, remained with the main body of the advanced guard a league and a half from Strasburg, and sent Major von Amerongen into the fortress, in order to represent to the commandant the serious disasters of the French army in the field, and to demand the surrender of the place. Tlie commandant, however, rouglily refused the demand, and after this the advanced guard employed upon this recon- naissance withdrew to Brumath.
On August 21 The head of the siege-train reached Veudenheim. The train consisted of 200 guns rifled on the Prussian system, and 100 smoothbore mortars ; 40 of these guns were at once brought into action against the fortress. Lieutenant-Greneral von Werder asked the commandant, in vain, to remove the observatory erected on the tower of the cathedral, in order that it might be possible to save this magnificent work of architecture from destruction. With similar results he endeavored to have the military hospital moved out of the line of fire.
Prussians bombarding Strasbourg
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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. 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. in consequence of this capitulation, the French lost 451 officers, 17,111 men (including 7,000 national guards), and some 2,000 sick, 1,843 horses, more than 1,200 pieces of bronze ordnance, 3,000 cwt. of powder, 12,000 chassepot rifles, 50 locomotives, and great quantities of other warlike stores. The prisoners of war were sent to Rastatt. 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.
General von Werder enters Strasbourg Sept 30, 1870