The Last Throw of the Dice - Bourbaki and Werder in Eastern France 1870-71, Quintin Barry

The Last Throw of the Dice - Bourbaki and Werder in Eastern France 1870-71, Quintin Barry

This book looks at the final major French campaign of the Franco-Prussian War, an ambitious attempt to use a newly formed Army of the East to try and lift the siege of Belfort, and then perhaps threaten the German supply lines and even turn north to unite with other French armies to lift the siege of Paris.

Unsurprisingly this ambitious plan failed, although with better leadership it really should have achieved at least the first objective. The Army of the East was much larger than its initial German opponents, the XIV Corps under General Werder, and the French also had a sizable garrison in Belfort itself. However as this book makes clear, the French chose their leader poorly – General Bourbaki had a reputation for personal courage, but he was also far too pessimistic to take command of such an ambitious venture, and appears to have had little confidence in the plan. He was officially supported by another force led by the famous Italian revolutionary Garibaldi, but after a good start after his initial arrival in France he failed to live up to expectations and his army remained largely static.

Barry tells the tale of how this campaign began with some optimism, lost its way in the winter weather, and was entirely derailed by the German defensive victory at the battle of the Lisaine. After that the story turns into one of an increasingly desperate retreat, which only ended when the remnants of French army were forced to seek refuge in neutral Switzerland, after a final series of clashes that took place after an armistice had come into effect in the rest of France.

This is a very detailed account of an unfamiliar campaign, which at its best may have slightly improved the peace terms for France, but as it was failed to achieve anything of real significant and at great human cost.

1 - Baden goes to war
2 - Deployment
3 - Strasbourg
4 - Bombardment
5 - Capitulation
6 - Etival
7 - The Combat on the Ognon
8 - Dijon
9 - Schlettstadt and Neu Breisach
10 - Garibaldi
11 - Pasques and Autun
12 - Werder in Dijon
13 - Nuits
14 - Retreat from Dijon
15 - Freycinet and Bourbaki
16 - Railway Nightmare
17 - Belfort
18 - Vesoul
19 - Options
20 - Villersexel
21 - Preparation
22 - The Lisaine: The First Day
23 - The Lisaine: The Second Day
24 - The Lisaine: The Third Day
25 - The South Army
26 - Kettler at Dijon
27 - Retreat to Besancon
28 - The end for Bourbaki
29 - Belfort: The siege continued
30 - Manteuffel tightens his grip
31 - The end in the East
32 - Conclusion 

Author: Quintin Barry
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 310
Publisher: Helion
Year: 2018

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