Wednesday 7 June 2023

The Republic Fights Back, the Franco-German War 1870-1871, volume 2

Another book review thanks to the kind gentlemen at Helion. 

Ralph Weaver’s ‘The Republic Fights Back, the Franco-German War 1870-1871, Volume 2’ picks up where his earlier book left off, and focuses again on the armies rather than the battles, something to my knowledge not previously put into print. Helion have therefore yet again excelled themselves in providing the ideal platform for this work in their excellent and eclectic’From Muskets to Maxim, 1815-1914’ series.

The author is a well known expert on nineteenth century warfare and he takes us through the period after the French surrender at Sedan and subsequent fall of the Empire of Napoleon III, summarising the events of the Autumn and Winter fighting and manoeuvring in the north and east and indeed at the gates of Paris.

One important part of the book for me at least are the chapters on the raising and organising of the new Republican armies, including as they did the remnants of the Imperial army, and large numbers of volunteers, Gardes Mobiles, and a sprinkling of foreign volunteers, notably the Papal Zouaves (not strictly foreign but…) and the multi-national troops of Garibaldi’s volunteers. The sections covering the treatment of prisoners, the war at sea and how the Republic turned the Britain and the United States as a source of new weapons and ammunition are especially interesting, as is that on codes and cyphers.

The Germans too faced problems after the defeat of the imperial armies, as they had to guard their increasingly long lines of communication against frequent attacks by francs-tireurs, which in a taste of what was become the norm for German troops occupying conquered areas of France in the two World Wars, were dealt with ruthlessly. These and other issues facing the Germans such as the use of railways are explained and put into context.

Leaving the best till near the end we have a superb chapter on the state and role and challenges of the medical services on both sides during the war, including the many foreign volunteer ambulance services which operated throughout this phase of the war. This is an all too brief but detailed and absorbing chapter full of useful information.

Overall, I must say that for a relatively small book it packs a punch and for me, fills an important gap in the previously available books on the war, most of which seem to focus on the Imperial phase. Overall it is well presented and thoroughly researched. There are several informative maps, lots of black and white illustrations and 20 super colour plates drawn by the author showing a wide range of (often quote exotic for the French) uniforms from both sides as worn during this phase of the war. The longer Republican phase is by far the most interesting part of the war and my appetite to find out more has been well and truly whetted. A great addition to the library of anybody with an interest in the war.

ISBN:978-1-915070-50-0 155 pages, soft back.


  1. Thanks, Colin, that's definitely tempting.

  2. Good review on the book, sounds very interesting.

  3. Both very good books which have made it to The Library. (Delivered in discreet brown packaging so wife is unaware of contents!)