Battle of Nancy Trouve de Charmes
Sunday, August 23, 1914 found the armies of Castelnau and Dubail standing in battle formation in front of the Trouvée de Charmes, the 20-mile gap opening in the side of France, near Nancy, flanked on its northern end by the fortified Meuse heights and on its southern end by a fortified spur of the Vosges.
De Castelnau's battle line, with its left on the heights of the Grand Cauronne and extending southward toward Essey, formed almost a right angle with Gen. Dubail's line, which ran from Essey by way of Baccarat to the Vosges. The German advance, therefore, must either be frontal against one army, exposing a flank to the other, or else form a salient enveloped by the French from the outset. Including the terrain swept by the guns mounted in the forts of Toul and Epinol, the front was 45 miles long.
The Germans, after occupying Luneville on the 23d, advanced toward the Gap and gave battle on the following day. A corps of Gen. Heeringen's army made an attempt to turn Dubail's flank by forcing the Pass of St. Marie in the Vosges, but was repulsed by the 14th French Corps, reinforced by troops from the garrison of Epinol.
At the same time, two corps of Bavarian troops had pushed along by the Meurthe valley and engaged the 21st French Corps at Celles and Baccarat, but still the line did not budge. The main attack was made against De Castelnau's front.
Advancing across the Mortague valley on both sides of Gerbeviller, the Germans flung themselves in dense masses against the positions held by the 15th and 16th French Corps, but the men of Provence and Languedoc amply retrieved their failure at Morhange, resisting every attack. On the right of them, Conneau's cavalry fought dismounted. Here the attack was pressed furiously for hours, but in vain. Now began a terrific bombardment, shells and shrapnel raining upon the Plateau, but it could not disperse the indomitable Frenchmen.
The German assault having failed, Gen. de Castelnau resolved to launch a counter- offensive, in charge of Gen. Foch. In addition to his own 20th Corps, Foch was given command of the 70th Reserve Division and two brigades of the 9th Corps.
Foch hurriedly planned a turning movement against the German right flank, with the heights beyond the Sanon as his objective, thus cutting the German communications and endangering their whole position. Under cover of the guns of the Grand Cauronne, Foch led his 20th Corps, first across the Meurthe by bridges, and then against the heights of Sanon, while the other detachments, under Gen. Fayolle, were pushed forward toward the Luneville-Chateau Salins road, north of the Marne and Rhine Canal.
Seeing their danger, the German defenders of Sanon called for reinforcements, but the whole German army was by now wholly engaged repelling the counter-offensive, and no troops could be spared. Before nightfall, Gen. Foch had reached the heights beyond Sanon, had stormed Flainval and the neighboring villages, and cleared the wood of Crevic of the enemy. Gen. Fayolle, with the 70th Reserves, had co-operated splendidly, having advanced within 2 1/2 miles of Serres on the Chateau Salins road.
By desperately using all his reserves, Prince Rupert on the following day managed to hold both Foch and Fayolle in check, for a few hours, but this was fatal to his main battle line, which showed signs of weakening. When the German front began to waver, Gen. de Castelnau ordered a general offensive.
The French attacked from three directions, compelling a retreat of the Germans through the wide gap between the Chateau Salins road and the Vosges. They fought stubbornly as they withdrew, but in three days they were driven across the German border, with heavy losses. This was the first great victory won by France, and coming so soon after the defeat at Morhange, it filled the nation with joy.
The generalship displayed by Gen. Foch in that victory entitled him to promotion. Summoned by Gen. Joffre to Chalons, he was complimented for his work at Nancy and given command, not of a corps, merely, but of an army—the immortal Ninth French Army—which was to be hastily formed out of army units then retreating from the Belgian border, and destined two weeks later to win imperishable glory as the real victor of the Battle of the Marne.
The German casualties in the Battle of Nancy are said to have reached the astounding total of 250,000, and this disaster to German arms was brought about by a French force but little more than half as large as the Germans.
World War I (abbreviated as WW-I, WWI, or WW1), also known as the First World War, the Great War, the World War (prior to the outbreak of the Second World War), and the War to End All Wars, was a global military conflict which involved most of the world's great powers, assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies of World War I centred around the Triple Entente and the Central Powers, centred around the Triple Alliance. More than 70 million military personnel were mobilized in one of the largest wars in history. More than 15 million people were killed, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history. During the conflict, the industrial and scientific capabilities of the main combatants were entirely devoted to the war effort.