The Franco-German War of 1870—71
Field-Marshal COUNT HELMUTH VON MOLTKE
TRANSLATION REVISED BY
WITH A MAP, NOTES, AND ORDERS OF BATTLE
JAMES R. OSGOOD, McILVAINE & CO.
45, Albemarle Street, W.
[All rights reserved]
The translation has been thoroughly revised for the sense as well as in regard to technical military terms and expressions. To the name of every German general officer mentioned in the text has been affixed, within brackets, his specific command, a liberty which the reader will perhaps not resent, since the interpolation is intended to facilitate his clearer understanding of a narrative condensed by the author with extreme severity.
In further aid of elucidation there has been occasionally inserted, also within brackets, a date, a figure, or a word.
A few footnotes will be found, which may perhaps be excused as not wholly irrelevant. In the Appendix have been inserted the "Orders of Battle" of both sides, as in the first period of the war.
Field-Marshal von Moltke began this history of the War of 1870—1 in the spring of the year 1887, and during his residence at Creisau he worked at it for about three hours every morning. On his return to Berlin in the autumn of that year, the work was not quite finished, but he completed it by January, 1888, at Berlin, placed it in my hands, and never again alluded to the subject.
The origin of the book was as follows. I had several times entreated him, but in vain, to make use of his leisure hours at Creisau in noting down some of his rich store of reminiscences. He always objected, in the same words: "Everything official that I have had occasion to write, or that is worth remembering, is to be seen in the Archives of the Staff Corps. My personal experiences had better be buried with me." He had a dislike to memoirs in general, which he was at no pains to conceal, saying that they only served to gratify the writer's vanity, and often contributed to distort important historical events by the subjective views of an individual, and the intrusion of trivial details. It might easily happen that a particular character which in history stood forth in noble simplicity should be hideously disfigured by the narrative of some personal experiences, and the ideal halo which had surrounded it be destroyed. And highly characteristic of Moltke's magnanimity are the words he once uttered on such an occasion, and which I noted at the time: "Whatever is published in a military history is always dressed for effect: yet it is a duty of piety and patriotism never to impair the prestige which identifies the glory of our Army with personages of lofty position."
Not long after our arrival at Creisau, early in 1887, I repeated my suggestion. In reply to my request that he would write an account of the Campaign of 1870—1, he said: "You have the official history of the war. That contains everything. I admit," he added, "that it is too full of detail for the general type of readers, and far too technical. An abridgment must be made some day." I asked him whether he would allow me to lay the work on his table, and next morning he began the narrative contained in this volume, and comparing it as he went on with the official history, carried it through to the end.
His purpose was to give a concise account of the war. But, while keeping this in view, he involuntarily—as was unavoidable in his position—regarded the undertaking from his own standpoint as Chief of the General Staff, and marshalled results so as to agree as a whole with the plan of campaign which was known only to the higher military authorities. Thus this work, which was undertaken in all simplicity of purpose, as a popular history, is practically from beginning to end the expression of a private opinion of the war by the Field-Marshal himself.
The Appendix: "On a pretended Council of War in the Wars of William I. of Prussia," was written in 1881. In a book by Fedor von Koppen, "Männer und Thaten, vaterländische Balladen" (Men and Deeds: Patriotic Songs), which the poet presented to the Field-Marshal, there is a poem entitled, "A German Council of War at Versailles" (with a historical note appended), describing an incident which never occurred, and which, under the conditions by which the relations of the Chief of the Staff to his Majesty were regulated, never could have occurred. To preclude any such mistakes for the future, and to settle once and for all the truth as to the much-discussed question of the Council of War, the Field-Marshal wrote this paper, to which he added a description of his personal experience of the battle of Königgrätz. It is this narrative which, shortly after the writer's death, was published in the Allgemeine Zeitung of Munich, in the somewhat abridged and altered form in which the Field-Marshal had placed it at the disposal of Professor von Treitscke, the well-known historian.
Count Helmuth von Moltke,
Major and Adjutant to his
Berlin, June 25th, 1891.
|Preparations for War
|Combat of Weissenburg (4th August)
|Battle of Wörth (6th August)
|Battle of Spicheren (6th August)
|Right-wheel of the German Army
|Battle of Colombey-Nouilly (14th August)
|Battle of Vionville—Mars la Tour (16th August)
|Battle of Gravelotte—St. Privat (18th