NOTES ON "TEUTONS!" PART 1 (OF 3): FRANCE 1870 (by Lou Coatney)

In the first of three blog posts about our new three-in-one release Teutons!: Assaults on the West, 1870-1940, designer Lou Coatney talks about the title, and the history behind the "France 1870" game, as well as offering some play advice for the same. Next time, we'll be diving into the 1914 game.

Germanic Thing (governing assembly), drawn after the depiction in a relief of the Column of Marcus Aurelius, 193 CE.

The title, Teutons!, has piqued interest. I chose it to evoke the ancestral - from Roman times on - image of hordes of blonde barbarians pouring en masse from their dark forests in the east in their pickelhauben (pickle helmets) and then panzers, to once again assail that pinnacle of civilisation: Paris dans la belle France!

Happily, those times and tragedies are long past, and we can now contemplate and explore their military history as friends all.

France 1870 Commentary

Louis Napoleon, Napoleon's nephew, had been proclaimed Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, and he was eager to restore and maintain France's Continental power. However, Prussia - steered by Bismarck - was ambitious and growing into Germany. After defeating Austria, Bismarck set about drawing France into war, and thanks to the easily provoked war fever of the French people, he succeeded with an "Ems Telegram" embarrassing and enraging the French, who then declared war on Prussia and its allied German states on 19 July 1870.

"Napoleon III", ca 1865, Alexandre Cabanel

Although Napoleon III had been assured by his generals that his smaller but well-equipped and well-trained professional army would be on the bank of all the Rhine River in 15 days, that proved to be deludingly over-optimistic. The French Army did not mobilize as fast as the Prussians and Germans did, and mass and heavy artillery overcame marksmanship. Most of the heavy Prussian casualties were from rifle fire, while most of the heavy French casualties were from artillery.

Photograph of the Battle of Sedan, 1 September 1870

We Americans were still holding a grudge against Napoleon III for having tried to take advantage of our American Civil War to violate our Monroe Doctrine and install Austrian Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico - overthrown and executed by revolutionaries encouraged by the presence of U.S. cavalry General Phil Sheridan and 50,000(!) U.S. troops ready to intervene across the border, if necessary. And so Sheridan and Ambrose Burnside - an excellent staff officer, although not up to the stress of command, as evidenced at Fredericksburg - were dispatched to the Prussians to be our military observers.

"Grant and His Generals", 1865, Ole Peter Hansen Balling

There are a couple of stories about this. Our Civil War had been the first modern war using railroads as supply lines. The Prussians were sending supply trains up to and back from the front on two separate lines. Burnside pointed out that if the Prussians connected the two lines up at or near their destination the trains could follow a circular route greatly simplifying and magnifying supply - vital for munitioning artillery and mobilizing supplies - hence my Burnside & Sheridan Rule. That is, the Prussians - Germans - might never have gotten going, without American military advisors. ( :-) )

The other story I've heard is that at the end of the initial campaign, the Prussians held a victory feast to which the Americans were invited. The Prussians were soon deep in their cups, and von Moltke boastingly chided Burnside and Sheridan that the American Civil War was little more than an undisciplined brawl between school boys ... whereupon Sheridan stated that if von Moltke had instead faced Robert E. Lee, he would at that moment be trying to defend *Berlin*. The Americans left soon thereafter.

French Cuirassiers in Metz, ca 1870

In any case, within a few weeks of the campaign's start, a decisive number of the elite French corps had been crushed, and the surviving Germans broke through to surround Paris in late September. Napoleon III had been captured bravely commanding his soldiers in one of the battles, and he would depart into exile in Britain, to die there in 1873.

The French people continued their resistance into 1871, but the peace treaty which lost France the Alsace-Lorraine was inevitable.

And a final tragedy for Louis Napoleon: his only child and heir - Louis Napoleon, Prince Imperial - would die in South Africa in 1879, killed by Zulu warriors. (His heartbroken mother Empress Eugenie went there, and the Zulus expressed their sorrow for her loss.

Play Advice: The French must somehow avoid suffering losses, or at least make the voluntary, attritive exchanges that the Prussians desire exorbitantly expensive. Fortresses can be used to fill in a defensive line. The French should watch for any opportunity to safely counterattack, to take the initiative away from the Prussians even in just one area.

See Part 2 of Notes on Teutons!

See Part 3 of Notes on Teutons!




Leave a Comment