The Franco-Prussion War: 1870-1871
Fall of the French Empire
In 1870 tensions developed between France (Second Empire) and Prussia. Napoleon III felt insulted by William I, and declared war against Prussia. For Chancellor Bismarck, a war against France constituted a way of finalising German unification. The fighting lasted from 19 July 1870 to 19 January 1871.
The defeat was a quick affair. Following surrender by the Emperor in Sedan on 2 September 1870, the Republican National Defence government was established which, shortly afterward, requested an armistice: the treaty was signed in Frankfurt on 10 May 1871.
After this defeat the whole German empire was united under the Prussian crown. Germany also decided to annex Alsace and Lorraine, which remained German until the end of the First World War.
The war on the plains of Beauce
After the Emperor surrendered in Sedan, the Republic was declared in Paris on 4 September 1870. The National Defence government was formed and decided to continue the war. In reaction to this the Germans held a siege against Paris from 20 September.
In the rest of the country outside of the city, assistance armies were formed to liberate Paris, including the Army of the Loire. In spite of this new adversary the Prussians occupied Orléans (11 October), Châteaudun (18 October) and Chartres (21 October). On 9 November 1870 the Army of the Loire won in Coulmiers (Loiret). Orléans was thus taken back from the Prussians.
Boosted by this initial success, the government ordered the offensive to be continued towards Paris. On 1st December the Château of Villepion was taken back from the Prussians, and on the morning of 2 December, the Army of the Loire faced the Prussian and Bavarian troops at Loigny.
The fighting in Loigny
On the morning of 2 December 1870, Loigny was occupied by a part of the French troops, but very quickly the Germans took the village back. The battlefield was churned up under a powerful artillery.
After the failure of the 51st regiment of foot soldiers, the Army of the Loire was under threat. In the face of this danger, General de Sonis led a charge by 800 men (including 300 pontifical Zouaves) towards Loigny. Deployed under the banner of the Sacred Heart, General de Sonis’s men showed heroic courage.
The enemy troops temporarily withdrew before reorganising and taking back the initiative. The French fell back in retreat, and the village and battle of Loigny were definitively lost.
On 4 December the Prussians took back Orléans. Paris was never rescued.
Ein Denkmal im Dienste der
Als Hommage an die Opfer der Schlacht hängen in der Totenkapelle seit 2000 deutsche und französische Flaggen aus.
Germans buried in Loigny
The fighting was particularly violent. Nonetheless, after the battle farmers spontaneously left plots of land to allow the Germans to bury their dead. Without a doubt this gesture can interpreted as the result of a mixture of fear and compassion. Certain plots are still owned by Germans.
COMMEMORATIONS IN THE SIGN OF BROTHERHOOD
While a spirit of revenge was developing in France, the sovereign of the German Empire, William II, presided over commemorations for the 25th anniversary of the battle of Loigny.
During commemorations for the 100th anniversary, in a desire for a sense of fraternity among the people, the bodies of 60 German officers were dug up and placed in the ossuary with the 1,200 French soldiers.
French and German friendship is celebrated regularly in Loigny. In 2000 the military delegate for the Embassy, Colonel Klaffus, evoked the memory of the German soldiers in Fougeu.
In Place du 2 December 1870 in Loigny he also planted a Maidenhair tree, a plant representing peace and considered to be a symbol life and renewal because it survived the atomic bomb. The Maidenhair is also the favourite tree of the city of Weimar, where Goethe lived.