The Franco-Prussian war began on July 19th 1870, and was to last less than a year as the more mobile and better prepared Prussian forces swept through to Paris in 6 months and declared the nation of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles on January 18th 1871.


French gun crew 1870

Shown in this picture is a French gun crew next to their weapon; a bronze muzzle loading gun which was vastly inferior to the Prussian breech loading steel Krupp artillery. This war was one of the first conflicts where both sides had breech loading rifles; the Chassepot on the French side and the Dreyse needle gun for the Prussians.  Despite a superior range, the Chassepot was negated by the German artillery, as the battle of Sedan famously illustrates. Rapid mobilisation and a greater weight of accurate artillery were the main drivers behind the Prussian victory, with weaknesses in the French army ruthlessly exposed and exploited by the Prussian forces.

This is the third and final ‘War of German Unification’ and was the culmination of many years of careful planning by Prussian forces. Bismarck, Von Roon and Von Moltke the Elder masterminded the victory, setting up a system of railways to quickly deploy their troops to the French border in order for a mass invasion along France’s eastern border, designed to overwhelm the French army before it could organise a response.

To see more photographs of soldiers from this war why not take a look at MAA 416, German Armies 1870-71 (1): Prussia by Michael Solka?

The original image can be found here.