Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning, 1871-1914

By Terence Zuber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Schlieffen’s war plan, 1891–1905

GERMAN ENEMY ESTIMATE IN THE WEST, l890–l895

From 1890 to 1895 the German General Staff continued for all intents and purposes to be perfectly informed about the French war plan.1 On 19 May 1890 the German agent again supplied what amounted to all the rail march tables for the Paris eastern railway. He also told the Germans that this plan constituted a modification of Plan X, called X M (modifié), and was effective from 15 April 1890. Most of the changes were made because the Bricon–Chaumont rail line had been expanded to four tracks.

Greiner said that the agent supplied less information concerning the French mobilization plan for 1891/2.2 This was still a very great deal, including the routes for all the active corps which used the eastern railway. Greiner said that a comparison of the German estimate with Marchand and the French official history was difficult, in particular because the French sources were so vague and the map attached to the German estimate had been destroyed. Nevertheless, it appeared that the Germans had an accurate picture of the French deployment in Plan XI. Greiner does not mention the intent of the French plan, which seems evident. The first priority was to defend the fortress line, probably in a defensive–offensive operation. The French would receive the German attack from behind their Moselle position, then maneuver and counterattack. The French deployment also provided for an easy transition from a defense behind the Moselle to an outright offensive into Lorraine.

The 3rd Department did not receive any new material from its agent

1 Greiner, ‘Welche Nachrichten besaß der deutsche Generalstab über
Mobilmachung und Aufmarsch französischen Heerer in den Jahren 1885–1914? …’,
BA-MA W10/50267, 2–25, 46–76.

2 The German estimate (completed on 4 Oct. 1891) of the French Plan XI was now
that the French would deploy: 1st Army (3½ corps) at Epinal; 2nd Army (four corps)
west of the Moselle at Charmes-Pont St. Vincent; 3rd Army (four corps) west of Toul;
and 4th Army (four corps) at St. Ménehould. The French would deploy a second eche-
lon with two corps and three reserve corps forming the 5th Army—the reserve army—
behind the center, with three reserve corps behind each flank. The third echelon would
consist of four reserve divisions and eight territorial divisions.

-135-

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