Saarbruck to Sedan: The Franco-German War 1870-1871

Volume 1 - Uniforms, Organisation and Weapons of the Armies of the Imperial Phase of the War

Ralph Weaver

There have been many books on the events of the Franco-German War, this book is the first to concentrate not on the course of the war, but on the armies themselves, how they were organised, what weapons they carried and what uniforms they wore and how they subsisted in the field.
Date Published :
January 2022
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Musket to Maxim 1815-1914
Illustration :
41 b/w ills, 20pp color plates, 3 maps, 6 tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781914059889
Pages : 134
Dimensions : 9.75 X 7 inches
Stock Status : Available


The Franco-German War of 1870-71 saw the demise of one empire, that of Napoleon III and the birth of another, a German empire under the rule of the king of Prussia. Many books have been written on the campaigns and battles of the war, this is the first to center on the armies themselves: how they were organized, how they were armed, what uniforms they were dressed in, and how they were supplied with the essentials of war.

Technical innovations changed the way armies behaved in the field, railways speeded up movement, the telegraph delivered orders in a fraction of the time, and new weapons altered tactics used on the battlefield.

How many uniforms did a Prussian soldier have and who made them? The newest and best uniform was reserved for ceremonial use and to go to war in! Other orders of dress were issued from regimental stores for parades, day to day wear, field exercises, fatigue duties and walking out. If a man had the cash, he could buy a uniform for going to the pub on Saturday night! And the French were not to be outdone, a description of a Guards’ officer’s kit lists nine different orders of dress, without including ball and evening dress. In France most uniforms were made by private contractors working to government contracts while Prussian battalions, squadrons and batteries had a depot company of artisans who made up soldiers’ uniforms from government supplied cloth. Officers had their uniforms made by private tailors.

Developments in armaments were not limited to the French, the chassepot rifle was a marvel and the mitrailleuse (a volley gun) could have been a war winner if used properly. The Bavarians had a mitrailleuse of their own design and they developed a modern rifle firing a metallic cartridge at a rate of 20 shots a minute. As well as recently published references, many contemporary works have been used either in their original form or now available as digital copies from French and German sources.

Many English language sources have also been used, Australian, New Zealand, and American newspapers all reported on the war for their readers. There were also many memoirs from soldiers, officers and men as well as diplomats, volunteers, combatants and those ministering to the wounded.

Equipment is described as well as the medals many men wore on their chests. The color section illustrates many of the lesser known uniforms worn during the war. Includes an annotated reading list.

About The Author

Ralph Weaver has made a life-long study of military history, particularly of Europe in the 19th Century. He began his military career with the Sealed Knot before giving up the sword for the pen. He has been the editor of the journal of the Continental Wars Society for the past twenty-five years and has written and illustrated books and magazine articles on military history. He trained as a land surveyor in the Civil Service and has used his map-making skills in battlefield walking and table top wargaming. He has been collecting books, pictures, photographs and reference material on uniforms with a view to writing a definitive history on the subject. As well as conducting research on military topics, his latest interests include cooking and looking after grandchildren.

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