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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Franco Prussian War

In my last post, I mentioned I’d been reading up on Alsatian history during the early years of Charles & Salome (Siegler) Ruch. Theirs might have been a fairly tranquil existence in the small village of Bouxwiller from their births until around the late 1860s. They lived under French rule which allowed much freedom and democratic policies to the various regions. Being over 50 miles from the Rhine River and the fortresses held by the Prussian army, they most likely felt somewhat secure.

However, that security would soon end, when France declared war on Germany (just as Germany wanted) and strove to recapture the French side of the river lost to them in a treaty in 1815. The war officially began on July 19, 1870. According to the accounts I’ve been reading, particularly Prussia and the Franco-Prussian War… by John Stevens Cabot Abbott, it was as horrendous and bloody conflict as has ever been waged. Though I’ve yet to find specific reference to Bouxwiller its location just north east of Strasbourg leaves little chance the village avoided devastation. At the very least the German army most likely confiscated food, arms and provisions from the occupants as described by Abbott:

Seventy thousand Prussian cavalry scoured the country in all directions, gathering ample supplies for the invading army of nearly a million of men. Almost every day announced the demolition of some fortress, or the capture of some town, by the resistless Prussians. France, bleeding, robbed, humiliated, almost helpless, was without any recognized government or any spirit of cordial co-operation among its distracted people. As the Prussians advanced, they found almost a deserted country before them. The peasants, in terror, fled into the woods. Pg 277

Charles was 19 and Salome was 20 years old when the war broke out. Did he take up arms against the Germans? I don’t know but he was certainly of the age to fight. Did he witness the carnage being played out on the battlefields? What deprivation did she endure and what duties were required of her in the village? Did she have to hide from an invading army? How did they cope with such a situation?

The war lasted only 10 months but was disastrous for France. Germany lost thousands upon thousands of soldiers but, in addition to the cost in human life, France lost Alsace and Lorraine and any security it may have had from Germany. In the end, citizens of these regions were given the option of emmigrating to France by 01 Oct 1872 or becoming German citizens.

On 20 Mar 1873, Charles Ruch and Salome Siegler arrived in the port of New York on the SS Ernst Moritz Arndt.

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