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Siege of Belfort
Part of the Franco-Prussian War
LionDeBelfort.jpg
The Lion of Belfort monument by Frédéric Bartholdi
which commemorates the Siege of Belfort.
Date November 3, 1870 - February 18, 1871
Location Belfort, France
Result Indecisive
Belligerents
Flagge Großherzogtum Baden (1871-1891).svg Baden
Kingdom of Württemberg Württemberg
France France
Commanders
Udo von Tresckow France Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau #
Strength
17,700
Casualties and losses
2,000 total 4,700 killed and wounded
13,000 surrendered
336 civilian


The Siege of Belfort was a 103 day military assault and blockade of the city of Belfort during the Franco-Prussian War. The garrison held out until the armistice between France and the German Empire obligated French forces to abandon the stronghold in February 1871.

Belfort is located in a gap between the mountainous southern Vosges and the Jura Massif, strategically postioned as the gateway between Alsace and central France. At the beginning of the war, the French Army of the Rhine was routed in northern Alsace. The fall of Strasbourg on September 28, 1870 allowed the German army under August von Werder to move south against the city Belfort. Upon hearing of the approaching German army, Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau, commander of Belfort, began constructing fortifications around the city, expanding those originally built by Vauban. Werder's forces reached Belfort and invested the city on November 3. The intransigent resistance by the French forces stopped the Germans from completing an effective encirclement of the city.

General Charles Denis Bourbaki assembled an army intending to relieve Belfort. On January 15, 1871 Bourbaki attacked Werder along the Lisaine River, however after a three day battle he was repelled and his army retreated into Switzerland. German forces grew impatient with the length of the siege and on January 27, 1871, General von Tresckow launched an attack on the city which was repulsed and the siege operations resumed.

On February 15 an armistice was signed between France and Germany. Louis Adolphe Thiers, president of the Government of National Defense sent an urgent message to Denfert-Rochereau ordering him to surrender the fortress. On February 18 the Belfort garrison marched out of the city and surrendered to the Germans.

Sources

  • Howard, Michael The Franco Prussian War ISBN 0-415-26671-8

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