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[339] Crown Prince's army, surprised and crushed, at Wissembourg, on the Sarre River, one division of McMahon's corps (the 1st) of thirty-six thousand men, which formed the right wing of the French army, composed of the élite of the French troops. Two days afterwards the Crown Prince attacked again, suddenly, the remainder of the French corps, at Woerth, a few miles back from Wissembourg. The other two corps, 5th and 7th of McMahon's army, were not quite within supporting distance, and instead of opposing his overpowering adversary in such a manner only as to give time to those two corps to concentrate on a good defensive position in his rear, he made a determined stand at Woerth, calling on them to hurry up to his assistance. Only two divisions of the 5th corps (De Failly's) reached him in time to take part in the desperate struggle then going on. But his gallant troops were nearly annihilated, and he was compelled to retire to the fortified and distant camp of Chalons, to recruit and reorganize another army, which was lost shortly afterwards at Sedan.

The left wing of the French army met with nearly the same fate. It consisted of five corps, scattered along the frontier in advance of Metz, all under the immediate direction of the French Emperor, Napoleon III., whose headquarters were established in that fortified city. Three Prussian corps, under General Von Steinmetz, suddenly appeared at Sarrebruck, on the Sarre River, which they crossed rapidly, and, on the 6th, surprised the 2d French corps (Frossard's) at Speicheren, where another desperate engagement ensued while awaiting the support of the other four French corps. These arrived, however, in the vicinity only in time to be caught ‘on the wing,’ and had to fall back in great haste towards Metz—in a divergent direction from McMahon's line of retreat—where they were finally surrounded, and compelled to surrender, with Marshal Bazaine, October 29th, 1870, after an heroic but useless defense, so far as regarded the safety of France.

General Beauregard is of opinion that, had the Confederates been in better fighting condition, the corresponding error of Sherman would have ended the battle of Shiloh long before Buell could have come to the assistance of the Federals, and a decisive victory would then have enabled the Confederates to take the offensive in middle Tennessee and Kentucky, with far greater results than those obtained, at first, by General Bragg, a few months later.

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