|European War II|
| France|| Germany
|Commanders and leaders|
| Napoleon III|| Wilhelm I
| Grande Armeé||25px Kampftruppe
|Casualties and losses|
|Total Deaths: 9,868,000 (less than the First European War)|
The majority of the fighting took place in France and Germany, and pitted France, the United Kingdom, and later Italy and Austria, against Spain and Germany. Initially, many thougth the war would be an easy victory for the French and British, although what actually happened was radically different -- the Italians were forced to save France from the brink of collapse by attacking Germany in 1875 and forcing Wilhelm I to both surrender, and change the political landscape of Germany by transforming it into an empire that would survive years into the future.
The war did eventually end in victory for the French, British, Italians, and Austrians (who won their independence from France after nearly 60 years), and the defeat of the Spanish and Germans, who were forced to give up quite a bit of economic resources. The earliest known application of total warfare, although only somewhat, the war led to the rise of the alliance system, which was set in place to avoid devaststing wars such as this one, since nearly 10 million people including civilians were killed by artillery and gunfire, but it actually caused an even more destructive one, followed by one even worse than that.
Background & Causes
The buildup to European War II had been brewing for many years prior to its beginning. The Spice Wars had eventually created an animosity that began to manifest itself throughout the 1860s due to a disagreement over what nation would receive what share of the spoils of the Spice Wars. Eventually, following the end of the Spice Wars, tensions were high between France and Germany and France began mobilizing forces along its eastern border, which Wilhelm I then mistook for an aggression, and mobilized his own troops for war, leading to a series of accidental conflicts along the borders of the two countries and a declaration of war on March 7, 1871, followed by Spain's declaration of war on the 10th and Britain's on the 11th.
The beginning of the war is generally considered to be March 10, 1871, since this is the day the Germans and Spanish entered France and began shelling major cities with artillery and cannonfire. The French were a bit surprised by the Spanish and were forced into chaos, leading to a series of retreats all the way back to Toulouse. Spain then sent its navy into the Mediterranean where it began hammering the shores of Marseilles with cannonfire from the sea, prepping the way for a ground invasion. All four nations involved passed larger military budgets and instituted much higher drafts to supply the war, and began looking into technological advancements to ensure victory for their side (which would later become the Arms Race). Eventually, the war settled into a relative stalemate with gradual gains for the Spanish and Germans.
The Drive to Paris (1872 - 1873)
Following the first six months of the war, both fronts began to settle into a much slower paced battle. However, the Germans had begun equipping their soldiers with multiple shot rifles, as opposed to the single shot rifles still used by the French army, giving them a distinct field advantage in combat, allowing them to push through French lines much quicker, although the British had some multiple shot rifles. Germany hoped to use their relative advantage to reach Paris by the end of 1974 and force a French surrender, a plan termed "The Drive to Paris" by many. Spain played a crucial role in this plan, as the Spanish forces were to drive north toward Paris and surround the city. However, this plan was thrown into disarray in December 1872 when the Royal Navy began assaulting the Spanish west coast, forcing the attack on Marseilles to stop and some troops on the southern front to be moved to the west coast in case of attacks.
Slowly but surely, the Germans and the Spanish advanced into France, although taking heavy casualties. As the months passed, the German army captured Amiens, a city just north of Paris, and the Spanish comtinued their northern offensive. By the end of 1873, German troops occupied areas within 100 miles of Paris. On November 27, French officers reported to Napoleon III that German units had reached the outskirts of the city and he was evacuated to London, but this information was never verified. Nonetheless, the French bravely halted the German advance outside Paris when cannonfire broke the offensive lines, but the Spanish continued making gains in the west, reaching Nantes in early 1874. In order to deal with the impending collapse of France, Britain began drafting plans for what became known as the Offensive of 1874 in order to divert German attention from France.
Offensive of 1874
Main article: Offensive of 1874 (Louisiana Revolution)
The Offensive of 1874 was a British counteroffensive into northwestern Germany in order to save France was collapsing under the two front war being waged by the Germans and Spanish. Essentially what the plan entailed was a British landing at Amsterdam and a ground invasion based in Amsterdam, and an assault on the German lines from behind and a move toward the east. It went into effect in January, and the British easily landed at Amsterdam due to poor German defenses and naval power, seeing as the majority of military funding went to advanced infantry weapons, rather than naval increases and improvements.
The plan worked perfectly, and within a few months of its implementation, the Germans were driven back from Paris across their own border into Luxembourg, and the British began making moves on other German cities. Spain continued to make ground for a while, although their efforts peaked with the occupation of Nantes, but the French ordered several divisions to be relocated to the Spanish front, which was largely successful in combatting Spanish gains and driving them away from Paris, but of course this left Germany in a position to launch another attack, which Wilhelm I ordered almost immediately following the French relocations, and by the end of 1874 Germany was back on the front lines in France and the northwestern units were buckling under superior German technology.
The Tide Quickly Turns
Facing what seemed like an inevitable collapse, the French called on Austria to take up arms against Germany and invade through the east, although they demanded independence in return. Eventually Napoleon III decided that giving up Austria was more favorable than defeat, so he agreed to these terms. Then, in another twist of fate, Italy joined the war on the side of the French and British on January 1, 1875, easily tipping the scales against Germany and Spain. Almost immediately, Germany was forced to remove all forces from France and relocate them to the south to fend off Italy, while Spain was forced to relocate several brigades to Valencia to fight off an impending Italian naval based ground invasion.
After the German relocation, both the Spanish and German war efforts began collapsing astoundingly quickly and soin Germany was on the total defensive and being devastated, as their internal military infrastructure was severely lacking in many areas. This disaster was compounded by the declaration of war and invasion from Austria on July 17, leading to a three front defensive war in Germany that was so destructive, that the Reichstag dissolved the republic and made Wilhelm I emperor so he could assume total command over the nation to fight the war. This act, however, was too little too late, and Germany formally surrendered in August of 1875, followed by Spain in January, 1876 after facing full naval assaults on two sides and the threat of a French invasion from the north, ending the main course of the war, and forcing the defeated nations to not only relinquish their claims to the goods gained from Maratha, but also to give up other resources but no territory.
Following the end of the war, Austria was granted freedom after almost 60 years of French rule, and immediately fell into civil war between imperialists and republicans, which after a few weeks, ended in the division of Austria into the Republic of Vienna and the Romanian Empire, which maintained close relations. Germany was humiliated and underwent an extreme political transformation, while Spain was simply humiliated. Each of these nations would suffer great economic turmoil for the next decade before Germany would once again emerge at the forefront of European politics, but this defeat led to the creation of the alliance system, which would allow political tension to begin to fester once again.