The Battle of Mars-La-Tour was fought on 16 August 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, near the town of Mars-La-Tour in northeast France. Two Prussian corps encountered the entire French Army of the Rhine in a meeting engagement and, surprisingly, successfully forced the Army of the Rhine to retreat into the fortress of Metz.
A cavalry patrol, the 1st Squadron of 1st Hanoverian Dragoon Regiment No. 9, led by Rittmeister [captain] Oskar von Blumenthal, discovered that 130,000 French troops, after suffering several defeats at the front, were attempting to escape from Metz to join with French forces at Verdun. This intelligence prompted General Prince Frederick Charles to send, on 16 August 1870, a grossly outnumbered group of 30,000 men of the advanced III Corps under General Constantin von Alvensleben with orders to cut them off. They located the French Army near Vionville, east of Mars-la-Tour. Despite being outnumbered more than four to one, III Corps routed the French and captured Vionville, blocking any further escape attempts to the west. Once prevented from retreat, the French inside Metz had no choice but to fight a battle that would see the last major cavalry engagement in Western Europe. III Corps, reinforced by X Corps under Konstantin Bernhard von Voigts-Rhetz, was devastated by incessant cavalry charges, losing over half its soldiers, while the French suffered equivalent numerical losses of 17,000 soldiers, but still held on to overwhelming numerical superiority.
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