West Virginian Rebellion

Six Years' War
Lignedefeu16August Jeanniot's La ligne de feu (1886), depicting the Battle of Mars-La-Tou





Mexico, France and Prussia


British and German victory


Flag of France France

Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom

Flag of the German Empire Germany


Flag of France Napoleon III

Flag of the German Empire Wilhelm I


492,585 active

417,366 Garde Mobile

Flag of the German Empire 300,000 regular

900,000 reserves and Landwehr

Casualties and Losses



The Six Years' War, often referred to in Germany as the War of 1870 (18 June 1865 - 10 May 1871), was a significant conflict between the United Kingdom and Prussia and the North German Confederation in an alliance, against Second French Empire. The war and its resulting United Kingdom/German victory is notable for its lasting impact on European politics during the last 19th and early 20th centuries. The unification of Germany was finally brought about after years of deliberation and conflict, leading to the rise of a new, industrious nation that shifted the European balance of power. Great Britain allied herself with Germany, while France sought to increase ties with Russia. However, French internal conflict intensified leading to Napoleon III's and the Second French Empire's downfall, which was replaced by the Third French Republic.

The conflict originally resulted as a colonial war in North America over the control of Mexico, which France and Great Britain both contested. Germany entered the war following the issue of a Hohenzollem candidate for the vacant Spanish throne, following the deposition of Isabella II in 1868. The public release of the Ems Dispatch, which played up alleged insults between the Prussian king and French ambassador, inflamed public opinion on both sides. This caused France to mobilize and declare war on only Prussia on 19 July 1870, though the other German states came to Prussia's aid.

However, the Prussian and Germans quickly established their superiority, mainly because of their use of industrial technology, such as railways and the Krupp steel artillery. The Prussian and German forces won several battles in eastern France while the British maintained a blockade. At the Battle of Sedan, Napoleon III and his entire army was captured. The war continued when the new Third Republic continued the war.

The German armies campaigned across northern France over the next five months, before beginning a prolonged siege on Paris. The city fell on 18 December 1870. Ten days before the fall of Paris, the German states announced their unification into the German Empire, under the Prussian king, Wilhelm I. The Treaty of Frankfurt was signed on 10 May 1871, giving Britain control over Mexico and the French territories of Alsace and part of Lorraine were added to Germany. The bitter end of the war sowed the seeds for the much larger World War I in 1906.

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