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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

January 6th, 1871 - Siege of Paris

Conflict: Franco-Prussian War

Combatants: French vs. Prussians

Location: France

Outcome: Prussian victory

After crushing the French army at Sedan and capturing Emperor Napoleon III on September 2nd of 1870, the victorious army of King Wilhelm I marched on toward Paris. The Prussians completed encircling the great city by September 20th. The new Third Republic, proclaimed after the defeat at Sedan, withheld its 140,000 man army behind the city's fortifications while the Prussian commander, General Helmuth von Moltke, was content to lay in siege. Despite French guerilla attacks and a second siege at Metz, the Prussians continued the siege for four months.

Franco-Prussian War - Students Going to Man the Barricades - Illustrated London News Oct 1 1870 by Fred Barnard

On November 29th and December 21st, the French General Louis Trochu attempted to breakout through the Prussian lines. Both attempts failed. The French lost over 7,000 soldiers in these sorties while the Prussian casualties numbered less than half as many. On December 27th, 1870, the Prussians began an artillery bombardment that lasted for three weeks.

French artillery encamped in the Tuileries gardens during the siege of Paris late September 1870 by Alfred Decaen and Henri Emile Brunner-Lacoste

Finally, with Parisians exhausted and starving, the French capitulated on January 28th of 1871. The French suffered 28,450 casualties during the siege. Moltke was made a count for his efforts and Wilhelm was proclaimed Emperor of Germany.

Points of Interest:

  • On October 8th Leon Gambetta, a leader of the Third Republic of France, escaped from the Paris siege via balloon.

  • A third attempted breakout was aborted when gardes nationales fired on fellow French troops.



Dupuy, R. Ernest & Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins.

Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

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