The Prussian line taking casualties as they charge.
For this year’s summer holiday we decided to travel through some of Europe’s finest wine regions in the search of some good bottles to stash before autumn. Our trip took us from Chianti in Tuscany, north to France and Avignon for some bottles of Rosé at the Tavel district, on through Bourgogne (I’ve read somewhere that the red from Champs Chambertin was Napoleon’s preferred wine) and finally to Alsace for my personal favourite amongst the white wines, the Riesling.
A quiet corner of Alsace - with a deadly past!
While in beautiful Alsace, I persuaded my fiancée to accompany my on a visit to the historic village of Woerth in the north-eastern corner of the region. Woerth and neighbouring Froeschwiller were the site of a mayor battle 144 years ago, during the initial days of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Here the 80.000 Germans of the 3rd Army under the Crown Prince surrounded veteran French commander MacMahon and his 35.000 men of the elite 1st Corps in a gigantic Prussian pincer of pikkelhubes and Krupp guns.
The battle of Woerth - 6th Aug. 1870.
The map also shows the previous border engagement
at Wissembourg on the 4th.
The outnumbered French fought like lions, some regiments paying with casualty rates nearing 90%, but the German tide supported by their excellent artillery was too great a force, and the defeat of the honourable MacMahon, the hero of Magenta, would send shock waves through the political top in Paris, and cast a serious shadow over French morale.
The battle rages in front of Froeschwiller.
Total losses on both side exceeded 30.000 men.
Visiting the battlefield today is well worth the journey, and anyone remotely interested in this period, should consider visiting this wonderful region for its history, food and great wines. Woerth has not grown excessively and the characteristic hills to the west of the village, on top of which the French held their defensive position, and up the slopes of which the Germans would keep charging, are still largely intact from any urban expansion.
Excellent flags for the range offered by GMB.
After the Franco-Prussian War ended, Alsace and Lorraine passed to Imperial German possession up to the end of WW1. During this period a series of monuments to the “glorious campaign” were erected on the battlefield. These serve today as waypoints accompanied by signs along the battlefield trail. For those with smart phones with Internet, the battlefield also offers a QR-code access to more info. The code is present on all signs along the trail.
The Bavarians storming the hill.
Roughly in the center is the monumental tower with top floor viewing platform, situated just west of Elsasshausen along the country road. It offers s 360° view of the battlefield, and needles to say, I spend quite a while up there reviewing the grounds, contemplating the desperate fight the French put up.
The view from the monument.
Woerth in the distance, while to the left one sees
the hill held by the Turcos under Suzzoni.
Naturally I also had to visit the hill held be the legendary Turcos under Colonel Suzzoni.
It was truly a special feeling to stand on the very spot, where this regiment almost got annihilated. To look down the slopes in front of the position, in the direction from which the Bavarians would have made countless charges, and suffered equally horrible losses, in their attempt to take the position.
The occasional car and a dog barking in the distance.
Likewise impressive was the number of monuments and memorials sprinkled over the centre of the battlefield. Here I was perhaps most touched by the one dedicated to the French Cuirassiers (Yes, I have a weakness there). Clad in their shiny armours and horsetail helmets, they were a testament to the imperial glory of France, drawing on the heritage from Napoleon I’s days. But now was the era of the breach loading rifles, and their fate at Woerth was grim.
Canister and Chassepot fire thinning the ranks.
I left Woerth and Alsace with loads of inspiration for my 1870 collection, and started putting together a unit of Prussians when I got home. I imagine them struggling forward in a hailstorm of canister and Chassepot fire, charging up the steep slopes towards the French. The figures are from the previous North Star 1866 range, and full of drama and animation, that suited this purpose excellently.
Thank you very much for reading!