|Battle of Hallue|
|Part of the Franco-Prussian War|
|Kingdom of Prussia||French Third Republic|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Edwin Freiherr von Manteuffel||Louis Faidherbe|
|22,500 soldiers||40,000 "citizen soldiers"|
|Casualties and losses|
|996 soldiers killed and wounded||
1,000+ soldiers killed, |
1,300 soldiers captured
The Battle of Hallue was a battle of the Franco-Prussian War on December 23 and 24, 1870.
The battle was fought between 40,000 French under General Louis Faidherbe and 22,500 Prussian troops under Edwin Freiherr von Manteuffel. The French lost heavily in the village lying in front of their position. However, the Prussians were unable to carry the entrenchments on the heights. After the attack was repulsed, the French assumed the offensive, but with no decisive result. One thousand French soldiers were killed, and 1,300 were imprisoned. About 927 German troops were killed and wounded.
French Northern Army
After the fall of Amiens, on September 27, 1870 and its occupation by the Prussian Army, the French Northern Army, falls back towards Doullens and Bapaume to built it up its strength again. It receives fresh supply of troops, allowing to turn out three Divisions.
General Faidherbe, lately entrusted with the command of this Army, gives at once guiding rules and orders. He sends general Lecointe towards Saint-Quentin with mission to act on the Haute Somme. Four battalions, including one of light-infantry and a battery of 4, succeed, on September 9, in taking possession of Ham and its fortress. Faifherbe, coming on the place, gives order to withdraw an go towards Amiens.
On December 17, the Northern Army, regrouped, comes settling to the Hallue valley from Bavelincourt to Daours. The troops (about 43000 men) are divided into two Army Corps :
- The 22nd, with two Divisions commanded by major-general Derroja and major-general Du Dessol,
- The 23rd, with also two Divisions commanded by : rear-admiral Moulac and major-general Robin.
French Army tactical positions on December 19th
- The 1st Division occupies Vadencourt, Bavelincourt, Beaucourt and Béhencourt, keeping up the road to Arras.
- The 2nd Division keeps, Querrieu, Pont-Noyelles, Bussy, Daours and Vecquemont.
- The 3rd Division is on reserve ; its 1st Brigade keeps watch over the Somme river, on Corbie and Fouilloy and detaches a regiment on Lahoussoye.
- The 4th Division in the making up, is put up round Corbie.
At the same time,general von der Goeben, chief commander of the 8th Prussian Corps, sets :
- The 32nd Brigade (general De Rex), into Amiens.
- The 31st Brigade is just arriving on Sains and the field-artillery is on Ailly-sur-Noye.
- The 15th Infantry Division (general Kummer) is along the La Luce river.
- The cavalry (lieutenant-general Graf von der Gröben) is on flank-guard from Rosières to Chaulnes.
Skirmish on Querrieu, December 20th
General-Major von Mirus in command of the 6th cavalry Brigade staying in Amiens for two days, sends a strong reconnaissance party consisting in a cavalry troop, an infantry battalion and a field artillery battery, to Querrieu village.
Reaching the La Gorgue wood skirt, the party knocks against a French outpost and, sustained by its artillery, joins a lengthy battle.
Two French battalions strenuously fight back, so much that general Du Dessol launches three companies coming from Bussy-lès-Daours to the right flank of the enemy who is constrained to a withdrawal towards the Alençons farm, then to Amiens.
In this battle Prussians lose 3 officers and 69 men killed or wounded ; French casualties are of 7 dead and 20 wounded.
Battle on the Hallue valley, December 23rd
Succeeding to general Steinmetz, general Manteuffel, recently appointed at the head of the 1st Prussian Army, arrives in Amiens on December 22 and gives offensive order for the next day at 8 a.m. :
- The 15th Division must attack straight to the river, following an axle materialized by the Albert and Corbie roads.
- The 16th Division, by the roads in the north of Arras road, must outflank the right wing of French troops.
- An infantry Brigade is kept in reserve.
- Part of the cavalry Division must carry out the touch between the 15th and the 16th Divisions.
- Fresh supplies of troops, shall be launched in the battle as soon as their arrival.
French dispositions remain unchanged.
The battle is going to stretche out a front line of 12 kilometres wide and 4 to 5 kilometres deep, on a snow covered ground and an icy temperature increased by a wind blowing from the north.
The French are using the Chassepot model 1866, breech-loading gun, with paper cartridges and 11 millimetres bullets.
The Prussians are using the Dreize created in 1848, breech-loading gun, with paper cartridges and 15 millimetres bullets.
The French are using cannons made in bronze dating of the Napoleonic period, loading from the muzzle, and iron inner-tubes ones, model 1858. They also use canons à balles (machine-guns) able to project 25 bullets.
The 8th Prussian Corps starts on its way on December 23 at 8 a.m. The 15th Division has received order to reject French troops beyond the Hallue river, but not to venture on the left bank until the effect of an outflanking motion of the 16th Division, more on the north, will be felt. Therefore, the 15th Division moves towards Allonville, followed by three horse field artillery and artillery corps, then turns to Querrieu. French outposts withdraw to the river, giving the alarm to the troops located in the back.
- At about 11 a.m. the 29th Prussian Brigade (von Bock), accompanied by two hussar troops and two batteries, on the Albert road, runs against the French 18th light infantry battalion taking up Querrieu with the supply of three batteries.
- Two Prussian batteries, soon reinforced by other two ones, are placed in the south of Albert road ; they start firing and a particularly violent duel is launched. After an hour of firing, the Prussians take possession of Querrieu. The fight is going on in Pont-Noyelles, vigorously defended by the 18th battalion of light infantry and two battalions of the 70th infantry regiment. Received by a nourished fire started by some units of the Gislain Brigade, posted on the left side of the river, Prussians are stopped on the east of the village.
- On the same time, more in the south, the 20th light infantry battalion of the Foester Brigade, keeping up the Bussy-lès-Daours village, is attacked on a concentric action from a battalion coming from the north, two companies and an hussar troop coming from the east. About on 1 p.m. the French evacuate the village. In the afternoon, in the west of a line Querrieu-Bussy, 42 Prussian cannons are set over against the same number of French cannons posted on the left side of the river.
- Then, in possession of Bussy-lès-Daours, the Prussians move forwards to Vecquemont and launch a vigorous attack ; they come up to the 19th light infantry battalion and marines of captain Payen Brigade, sustained on their right by the Foester Brigade. Under an hail of bullets, the Prussians are unable to progress. Manteuffel, came himself on the heights above Querrieu on the west, asks for artillery fresh supplies who arrive at about 4 p.m.. The French Payen Brigade is constrained to evacuate Vecquemont and hold position on the left side of the river.
- In Pont-Noyelles, at about 3:30 p.m. the Prussians try to climb the hills on the east of the river, but after a counter-attack conducted by a 70th regiment battalion and a company of the 101st mobile commanded by captain d'Hauterive, bayonet charging, the French take again the village, but they are unable to keep it up.
- Far in the north, the Prussian 30th Brigade attacks successfully Fréchencourt ; they are stopped by the fire guns of the 18th light infantry battalion and a battalion of mobiles coming down from Parmont wood. The Du Dressol Division, holds the heights.
- On the north of Fréchencourt, the 16th Prussian Division (von Barnekow), came from Amiens on the Doullens road to Poulainville and Rainneville without seeing anyone all along the morning. At 1 p.m. general von Goeben sends order to Barnekow to turn to the right. The, Barnekow makes his way to Beaucourt-sur-l'Hallue and Saint-Gratien.
- Passing beyond Saint-Gratien, the 31st Prussian Brigade (von Gneissnau), receives order to reach Montigny-sur-l'Hallue. At about 3 p.m. the Prussians bring into action with the 2nd French Brigade (Pittié) of the Derroja Division ; after the fall of Montigny, they push back the French towards Béhencourt, who, in their withdrawal destroys the Hallue bridges, but the Prussians under a strong fireguns, launch a foot-bridge over the river.
- With fresh supplies coming from the 32nd Brigade (von Rex), the Prussians take possession of Beaucourt, Montigny, Béhencourt and Bavelincourt while their artillery (six batteries) take up position on the north of Fréchencourt. This artillery cannonade, without any success, the French artillery which is on a higher position on Parmont wood and too far away.
Battle in the dusk
On 4 p.m. night is about to fall. The Prussians keep under control the right side of the river and Pont-Noyelles village. Their turning movement on the north has failed and their troops are threatened by the Aynes Brigade of the Derroja Division, coming into sight on the south-east of Contay, marching to Beaucourt. At that time, general Faidherbe, gives attack order on all the front line. This attack will continue from 4 to 6 p.m. :
- In the center, general Lecointe having assembled all troops still organized, launches an offensive on Pont-Noyelles. Two successive attacks are going ahead, but his troops, the 18th light infantry battalion and the 70th infantry regiment, non accustooomed with the night combat, must withdraw, all the more that Manteuffel has launched two battalions to sustain his troops.
- In the south, the Foester Brigade succeed in crossing the river between Querrieu and Bussy, but it is stopped by the fresh supplies sent by Manteuffel. At about 5 p.m. the Payen Brigade launches an attack to Vecquemont, but is stopped in its turn.
- At 7 p.m. the battle field is in complete darkness. The Prussians hold all the villages in the valley and billet there. The French Army is obliged to bivouac on its positions, by night on the heights where on a snowy ground, the temperature falls to -8° Celsius and an icy wind is blowing without any obstacle.
On the next day, December 24 at 9 a.m. the French artillery launches a cannonade to Béhencourt without any Prussian reply. General Faidherbe makes up his mind to retreat. The withdrawal, protected by a line of retarding units, begins at about 2 p.m. The Prussians will only start the pursuit on the following day December 25 ; at that time, the French Army is arriving near Bapaume.
A war memorial named "Colonne Faidherbe" was erected in 1875, on the heights of Pont-Noyelles, on the place where general Faidherbe directed the last combats.
An ossuary contains the bodies of 74 soldiers killed during the battle in and around Pont-Noyelles.
On every village of the valley, many soldiers' bodies lie in their communal cemeteries.
In the Querrieu communal cemetery, a military grave surmounted by a stele and a calvary, erected in 1875, contains the bodies of 12 unknown French soldiers. Another grave, also surmounted by a stele, contains the bodies of 18 Prussian soldiers ; only the name of one of them is known.
- Upper watercourse of the Hallue river (Cassini map)
- Middle watercourse of the Hallue river (Cassini map)
- Lower watercourse of the Hallue river (Cassini map)
- Battle Order of the Prussian Army on 1.8.1870
- La Gorgue : south-eastern part of Querrieu wood
- La bataille de Pont-Noyelles, par Georges Pierson, in "Histoire et traditions du pays des coudriers", number 8, pages 37 to 42
- La bataille de l'Hallue, par Gilles de Monclin, in "Histoire et traditions du pays des coudriers", number 21, pages 29 to 36
- Chassepot rifle (french)
- Shrapnel shells (French)
- Mobile : soldier of the French Garde nationale mobile
- Parmont : Fréchencourt wood, on the left side of the river
- George Bruce. Harbottle's Dictionary of Battles. (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981) (ISBN 0-442-22336-6).
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