Battle of Spichern

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Battle of Spichern
French and German positions around 6 p.m. on August 6, 1870
French and German positions around 6 p.m. on August 6, 1870
date August 6, 1870
place Save , Lorraine
output German victory
Parties to the conflict

North German ConfederationNorth German Confederation North German Confederation

Second empireSecond empire France


North German ConfederationNorth German Confederation Georg von Kameke Constantin von Alvensleben
North German ConfederationNorth German Confederation

Second empireSecond empire Charles Frossard

Troop strength
less than 20,000 about 25,000

850 dead, 4,000 wounded

320 dead, 1,660 wounded, 2,100 prisoners

The Battle of Spichern (also Battle of Spichern , Battle of Spicheren , also called Bataille de Forbach in France ) on August 6, 1870 was a battle of the Franco-German War . It was named after its location, the village of Spichern near Forbach not far from the German-French border near Saarbrücken .

To the starting position

After the battle on August 2nd near Saarbrücken, the 2nd French Corps under General Frossard had withdrawn to the heights of Spichern and below it around the villages of Stieringen and Schöneck , south of Saarbrücken, and increased the natural defense capabilities through trenches and battery cuts. The fortress-like Rote Berg and the massive village of Stieringen-Wendel were excellent, barely attackable bases of the position. Scouts had already reported the advance of parts of the 1st and 2nd Armies under Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz and Friedrich Karl Nikolaus von Prussia to the French High Command in advance. Frossard had studied the area carefully. From his quarters in the Forbach town hall, he was in contact with Marshal François-Achille Bazaine in Sankt Avold .

First fights

General Charles Auguste Frossard
Carl Röchling : Storming the Red Mountain

After the advance troops of the German 1st Army had crossed the Saar on the morning of August 6, they got the impression that the stations of Stieringen and Forbach were only protected by a simple line of defense and that the French troops were in retreat. The VII Army Corps had first crossed the Saar section from the north. While the 14th Division met the enemy head-on, the 13th Division under General von Glümer began to circumvent the French positions around the Forbacher Wald extensively via Völklingen , Wehrden and Kleinrosseln . General von Kameke , the commander of the 14th Division, had learned that the French had evacuated their positions south of Saarbrücken and were re-establishing themselves on the heights near Spichern. He wanted to seize the high hillside for himself as much as possible in order to gain a firm foothold on the right bank of the Saar. The 15th Division (General von Weltzien ) of the VIII Army Corps was still far behind. The vanguard of the 16th Division (General von Barnekow ) did not arrive at Quiiev and Fischbach until noon.

French artillery , however, threatened all movements between Saarbrücken and the French positions from the mountains around Spichern. General Kameke ordered his 14th division to attack. The 39th and 74th regiments, both under the command of the 27th Infantry Brigade of the Prussian Major General Bruno von François , marched along Metzer Strasse and encountered bitter resistance late in the morning in the great heat at the Goldenen Bremm and at Schöneck French troops. In the early afternoon the Prussians tried to storm the Red Mountain with great losses . François was hit by several bullets and fatally injured. A small part of the mountain could be occupied; French counter-attacks threatened to drive the Prussians off the Red Mountain again. Some of the guns of the Brandenburg 5th Division , which were carried up the mountain with heavy losses of soldiers and draft horses, helped to stabilize the situation.

Intervention of the German 2nd Army

Early that morning the German 2nd Army received news from the cavalry that the Saarbrücker Heights had been evacuated. As a vanguard, the 5th Division (General von Stülpnagel ) advanced in the morning from the Neunkirchen area in two columns towards the Saar. The 9th Brigade under Major General von Doering marched on the main road from Saarbrücken, the 10th Brigade under General von Schwerin advanced against Dudweiler via St. Ingbert . The commanding general of III. Army Corps General von Alvensleben had received General Kameke's call for help and accelerated the advance.

Alarmed by the thunder of guns, the 13th Division also accelerated its advance around the Forbach forest and from 3 p.m. intervened in the battle, which soon turned in favor of the Prussians. The commanding general of the VII Army Corps, General von Zastrow , arrived on the Galgenberg and took over the command as the senior general around 4 p.m. Following their defensive tactics, the French had only launched limited counter-attacks, so that the 14th Division, which had actually already been defeated, could rally and the reinforcements could take the initiative. One after the other, the "Goldene Bremm", the "Rote Berg" and the "Forbacher Berg" were captured, while hand-to-hand fighting broke out in the "Gifertwald". Finally, around 6 p.m., around 40 companies from five different regiments, some completely detached from their unit, were fighting for the Spichern Heights. The 28th Infantry Brigade under General von Woyna fought over the French division of General Bergé near Stieringen. Despite strong resistance, the left wing finally succeeded in pushing the French out of the "Gifert Forest" and occupying the southern border. At around 7 p.m. General Frossard ordered the retreat from Stieringen, but hand-to-hand fighting continued into the night around the village. Some Prussian regiments bypassed the French positions in the north, and these were threatened with enclosure, which could only be avoided by retreating.

Of the nearly 20,000 Prussian soldiers, 850 fell and about 4,000 were wounded; of around 25,000 French soldiers, 320 died, 1660 were wounded and 2,100 were captured.

One reason for the Prussian victory was the hesitant behavior of the French leadership: Frossard was informed of the arrival of the Prussian reinforcements in his quarters in Forbach in the early afternoon and urged his superior, Marshal Bazaine (1811–1888), Commander-in-Chief of the Lorraine Army for help after declining previously offered reinforcements. Bazaine had units in Sankt Avold , only 30 railroad kilometers west, but was reluctant to deploy them.

The victory of the Prussians was unforeseen: Moltke and the army command were still in Mainz , did not know the French positions and had not yet given an order to attack. The unauthorized action of parts of the Steinmetz army was later covered by him. It was a risk to attack an enemy of unknown strength and in strong positions; the attack could have ended in defeat.

After the battle

Timely postcard with a memorial for the Lower Rhine Fusilier Regiment No. 39

The Prussians, who had suffered heavy losses, organized the transport of the dead and wounded to Saarbrücken because the field hospitals had not yet arrived.

During the night Frossard retreated to Sarreguemines . The next morning the Prussians occupied Forbach without a fight. This opened the way to Metz and led to the siege of Metz , which ended with the surrender of Marshal Bazaine.

Bazaine was under the pressure of public opinion by a court martial of the breach found guilty, demoted and sentenced to death. The death penalty was later commuted to imprisonment.


Street names

In the German Empire , many streets were named after the site of the battle and some during the Nazi era . There has been a “Spichernstrasse” since March 16, 1888 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf , after which an underground station is named, and in Kiel since March 9, 1900 . Also in the Bonn district of Godesberg-Nord (since 1933), in Munich, two in Duisburg [Rheinhausen and Meiderich-Berg], Düsseldorf, Essen, Hanover, Lünen and Cologne.

In Schönebegk near Vetschau, an inn was built, which was named Zur Spicherer Höhe .

Cenotaphs and memorials

On the plateau of the Red Mountain there are some memorials for the fallen of the German and French regiments. Further memorials and graves can be found in the German-French Garden and on the Saarbrücken forest cemetery. Only the two memorials on the German side are still in their original condition; the cast-iron eagles were removed from the memorials on French soil years ago . On all memorials there are panels with the names of the soldiers who fell in Spichern. On the Saarbrücken Winterberg , which played a role in the battle, the Winterberg Monument was erected between 1872 and 1874 , of which only the reconstructed base remains today.

Katharine Weißgerber (called Schultze Kathrin ), a house helper and nanny from Saarbrücken, played a selfless Samaritan role in the battle . At risk of death, she brought numerous German and French wounded soldiers to safety on the battlefield and supplied them with water; in the hail of bullets, she looked for a priest for the dying. After the end of the war she received the Cross of Merit for Women and Virgins from King Wilhelm I in recognition of her selfless commitment . Her grave is in the Saarbrücken Ehrenfriedhof in the German-French Garden .

The Lulustein on Bellevue in the Alt-Saarbrücken district describes the place where, according to oral tradition, on August 2, 1870, 14-year-old Napoléon Eugène Louis Bonaparte , the son of Napoleon III. , is said to have fired a cannon for the first time. It also marks the furthest advance of the French army.

Saarbrücken town hall cycle and Spichern Museum

Main article: Saarbrücken town hall cycle

"Storming the Spicherer Heights" (black and white reproduction)
Color sketch for "Arrival of King Wilhelm I in Saarbrücken" ( German Historical Museum )
Postage stamp based on the "Victoria" painting

Even during the war, the Prussian minister of education, Heinrich von Mühler , had plans for a patriotic cycle of pictures that was to be given to the city of Saarbrücken out of gratitude for its support in battle and in the war. The cycle of pictures, which the painter Anton von Werner undertook to carry out , was presented on August 8, 1880 in a specially built hall-like extension of the former town hall of Saarbrücken, today's Old Town Hall (→ Saarbrücken town hall cycle ).

The "Victoria" painting, which is part of the town hall cycle, served as the motif of a permanent stamp series of the Reichspost with representative depictions of the German Empire .

The extension was used as a representative meeting and ballroom. After the incorporation of the Saar region into the German Reich , the Spichern Museum was opened in June 1936 in the council chamber and an adjoining room, which was supposed to represent the role of the Saar region as a bulwark against France in accordance with National Socialist ideology . However, the museum only existed for a few years, as it had to be evacuated for the first time at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939 and then finally in 1942. The old town hall and the annex were destroyed in the heavy bombing raid on Saarbrücken on October 5, 1944. However, the pictures could be saved and were then stored in the attic of the St. Johann town hall . The paintings, which are now privately owned, are to be permanently presented (as of 2013) in the “K4 factory” in the old cotton spinning mill in St. Ingbert .

In 1895, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the battle, the sculptor Wilhelm Schneider modeled two life-size statues based on the image detail showing François and the trumpeter. The group of figures "Von François with trumpeter" was set up as a provisional plaster model in front of the mine management in St. Johann and then brought to the St. Johann Volksgarten, where it stood for many years and, exposed to the weather, deteriorated over time. At an unknown point in time, the remains were removed. The bronze casting of the monument failed due to the question of costs and the question of a possible participation of the city of St. Johann in the financing of the project.


  • Theodor Fontane : The war against France 1870/71. Volume 1, Berlin 1873 (1st edition). Reprint 2004. Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza 2009, ISBN 978-3-937135-25-0 .
  • George FR Henderson : The battle of Spicheren, August 6th 1870, and the events that preceded it - a study in practical tactics and war training , 1891 (Gale and Poldens military series). Reprint 2009. Helion & Company, Solihull 2009, ISBN 978-1-874622-44-4 .
  • Albert Ruppersberg : Saarbrücker War Chronicle. Events in and near Saarbrücken and St. Johann, as well as at the Spicherer Berge 1870. Saarbrücken 1895. Reprint 1978. Saarbrücker Bücher, St. Ingbert 1978.
  • Carl Bleibtreu : Battle of Spichern on August 6, 1870 . Reprint of the 1903 edition. Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza 2009, ISBN 978-3-86777-071-2 .
  • Eduard von Schmid: The battle at Spichern according to the information from the French General Staff Works (= The French General Staff Works on the war of 1870/71. Volume 3). Luckhardt, Berlin a. Leipzig 1904.
  • Klaus Holländer: The Spichern Museum in Saarbrücken. In: Ralph Melcher , Christof Trepesch, Eva Wolf (eds.): A picture of culture. The history of the Saarland Museum. Gollenstein Verlag, Saarbrücken 2004, ISBN 3-935731-80-9 , pp. 207-218.
  • Geoffrey Wawro: The Franco-Prussian War. The German Conquest of France in 1870–1871 . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge u. a. 2005, ISBN 978-0-521-61743-7 .
  • Wulf Wein: There has long been peace over the graves . In: Saarbrücker Zeitung (supplement "Heimat") from 29./30. May 2010, page H 4
  • Fabian Trinkaus: National myth and local hero worship. The Battle of Spichern and its cultural and political reception in Saarbrücken during the German Empire. (= History and culture. Kleine Saarbrücker series 3) Kliomedia, Trier 2013, ISBN 978-3-89890-184-0 .

Web links

Commons : Battle of Storage  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Spichernstrasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )
  2. Hans-G. Hilscher: Kiel Street Lexicon . Continued since 2005 by Dietrich Bleihöfer, Office for Building Regulations, Surveying and Geoinformation of the State Capital Kiel, status: February 2017. Available at (PDF; 1.5 MB)
  3. Happy in the place of birth Schönebegk , Lausitzer Rundschau of October 24, 2015 (accessed on August 4, 2020)
  4. ^ Klaus Holländer: The Spichern Museum in Saarbrücken. P. 215.
  5. ^ Klaus Holländer: The Spichern Museum in Saarbrücken. P. 218.
  6. Rolf Henkel: Banished to the attic . In: Die Zeit , No. 46/1975
  7. Contemporary art in old walls. City of St. Ingbert, accessed on May 11, 2019 .
  8. Rainer Knauf, Christoph Trepesch: war memorials and war cemeteries. Forms of war memorial in the Saarbrücken area between 1870 and 1935. In: Lieselotte Kugler (Hrsg.): Grenzenlos. Worlds of life in the Franco-German region on the Saar and Moselle since 1840. Historisches Museum Saar, Saarbrücken 1998, ISBN 3-9805574-1-3 , pp. 156–182.