French Forces, 100,000
Gen. de Castelnau
German Forces, 350,000
Kaiser Wilhelm, in person
Crown Prince Rupprecht
Duke of Württemberg
On the same day von Kluck swerved his German army to the east of Paris (August 31, 1914), preparatory to striking the Allies' line on the Marne, a tremendous battle was begun on the Lorraine border at Nancy, 150 miles away. The German high command had massed at this point 350,000 picked troops, expecting to break through the Gap of Mirecourt into France and take the Allies in the rear while von Kluck and von Buelow were attacking them in front.
The combined German armies were commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, the Duke of Württemberg, and Gen. Heeringen, the victor of Morhange. Opposed to them was a French army of only 100,000, commanded by Gen. de Castelnau. The German artillery outranged the French guns. With heavy siege guns, brought from Metz, it was intended to blow Nancy and the Grand Couronne into oblivion and conquer France at a single blow.
The Kaiser himself came from Metz to view the battle, arrayed as an Asiatic conqueror, and confident of victory. But instead of a victory he witnessed the disgraceful defeat of his choicest troops by a foe whom they outnumbered nearly four to one.
In a certain sense, the Battle of Nancy may be regarded as the prelude to the Battle of the Marne. Indeed, Castelnau's victory at Nancy made possible the triumph of Joff re and Foch at the Marne. Had the Germans broken through the Gap of Mirecourt, all France would have been at their mercy.
The battle was fought along a front of 25 miles, the dominant feature of which was a long wooded range of hills, called the Grand Couronne. To control this height, the Germans needed but to capture its extreme points—the hill of St. Geneviève to the north and the plateau of Amanee to the south.
St. Geneviève commanded the right bank of the Moselle, which runs almost due north- from Nancy to Metz, whi...