Please remember to include a full bibliographical reference at the end of each source you quote.
The Battle we're building is the Battle of the Frontiers, which incompass the Battle's of the Sambre and Mons, and end at the Battle of the Marne, which marked the end of the war of movement, and the beginning of Trench Warfare.
-From John Keegan's The First World War Pimlico edition, 1998, England.The Battle of the Frontiers
A curious interval of calm had followed the upheavel of mobilisation and the subsequent mass migration to the areas of conventration. Both the French and German divisional histories record an interlude of a week or even ten days between detraining behind the frontier and the onset of action. It was spent distributing stores, hurried exercises and deployment on foot towards the front. There was, for some very senior officers on both sides and for others who had read their history, a certain familiarity about the preliminary events. They resembled those of the first days of the Franco-Prussian War forty-four years earlier, with the difference that everything was working with greater efficiency. Otherwise, the troop trains looked the same, the long columns of horse, foot and guns looked the same, on the French side the uniform looked the same, on both sides even the weapons looked the same; the revolutionary power of quick-firing artillery and magazine-rifles had yet to reveal itself.
The battlefront chosen by the French high command was, for much of its length, almost exactly the same also. True, in 1870, there had been no operations north of the point where the French met the Luxembourg frontier, while in 1914 the deployment areas of the French Third, Fourth and Fifth Armies reached from there towards Belgium. In Lorraine, however, the soldiers of the First Army found themselves treading the same roads as their grandfathers had done under the command of Napoleon III. The lines of departure were further to the west, transposed thence by the German seizure of territory that had been the price of defeat in 1871, but the avenues of advance were the same and so were the objectives: the line of the River Saar, Saarbrücken and the country beyond on the way to the Rhine. These had been given in Joffre's General Instruction No. 1 of 8 August.
The Lorraine offensive opened on 14 August, when Dubail's First Army, with de Castelnau's Second echeloned to its left, crossed the frontier and advanced towards Sarrebourg. Bonneau's setback at Mulhouse seemed forgotten. The French advanced as liberators and conquerors, bands playing, colours unfurled. The thought that the Germans might have plans of their own for victory in the lost provinces - to them "Reich territory" - appears to have crossed no mind in the French high command. Its intelligence underestimated the Germans' strength and its judgement was that they would stand on the defensive. In fact the German Sixth and Seventh Armies, commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and General Josias von Heeringen, a Prussian ex-War Minister, comprised eight, not six, corps and were preparing to strike the French a weighty counterblow as soon as they overreached themselves.
They were shortly to do so. For four days the Germans fell back, contesting but not firmly opposing the French advance, which in places reached twenty-five miles into Reich territory. A German regimental colour was captured and sent for presentation to Joffre at Vitry-le-François, where he had established General Headquarters (GQG). Château-Salins was taken, the Dieuze, finally on 18 August, Sarrebourg, all places that had been French since Louis XIV's wars against the Habsburgs in the seventeenth century. Then the front lost its sponginess. The French infantry found German resistance stiffening. The small Army of Alsace, advancing continuously on the First's right, recaptured Mulhouse the next day, but its success lent no support, for a wide gap yawned between it and Dubail's positions. It was not the only gap. First Army was not firmly in contact with Second; west of the Saar Valley, Dubail and Castelnau were not in operational touch at all. Dubail was conscious of the weakness and intended on 20 August to mend it by launching an attack that would both restore contact and open a way through for Conneau's Cavalry Corps (2nd, 6th and 10th Divisions) to debouch into the enemy's rear and roll up his flank; but even as he set the attack in motion on the night of 19/20 August, the Germans were preparing to unleash their planned counter-offensive.
Rupprecht's and Heeringen's Armies had been temporarily subordinated to a single staff, headed by General Krafft von Delmensingen. Thus, while the French Second and First Armies co-ordinated their actions only as well as sporadic telephoning could arrange, the German Sixth and Seventh fought as a single entity. Here was the anticipation of a new trend in command, which would bring into being formations as large as existing communication systems could control. On 20 August its worth was swiftly demonstrated. Dubail's night attack was checked as soon as begun. The setback was followed by a simultaneous offensive along the whole line of battle by the eight German corps against the French six. The French VIII Corps, which had reached the Saar at Sarrebourg, was overwhelmed; its artillery was outmetalled by the heavier German guns, under the fire of which the German infantry drove the French from one position after another.
Heavy artillery did even worse damage to Second Army, which was struck by a concentrated bombardment along it's whole front as day broke on 20 August. The XV and XVI Corps abandoned thier positions under the infantry attacks that followed. Only the XX, on the extreme left, held firm. It was fighting on home ground and was commanded by General Ferdinand Foch, of exceptional talent and determination. While his soldiers clung on, the rest of the Army was ordered by Castelnau to break contact and retreat behind the River Meurthe, the line from which it had begun its advance six days earlier. It had very nearly been enveloped on both flanks, which would have resulted in irretrievable disaster to the whole French army, and had completely last touch with the First Army, which Dubail was therefore obliged to disengage from battle also. By 23 August it, too, had returned to the Meurthe and was preparing to defend the river, hinging its defence on strong positions which Foch had established on the high ground of the Grand Couronné de Nancy. There the two armies entrenched to await further German assaults. Schlieffen had warned such assaults must not be attempted if the victory he had rightly anticipated would follow a French offensive in Lorraine. The temptation to exploit the victory proved, however, too strong to resisit. Von Moltke yielded to the demands of Rupprecht and Delmensingen and sanctioned their renewal of the offensive which, between 25 August and 7 September, broke on the stout defences the French unexpectedly established along the Meurthe.
The significance of the French recovery on the right of their enormous front would take time to emerge. Elsewhere disaster persisited. Next above the First and Second Armies stood the Third and Fourth, given by Joffre the mission of penetrating the forest zone of the Ardennes and striking towards the towns of Arlon and Neufchâteau in Southern Belgium. Their front of attack was twenty-five miles, the depth of forest to be penetrated about eight. Two considerations argued against Joffre's offensive instructions. The first was that the terrain of the Ardennes - tangled woods, steep hillsides, wet valleys - impedes military movements, confining marching troops to the infrequent roads. The second was that the German armies, Fourth, commanded by the Duke of Württemberg, and Fifth, commanded by the German Crown Prince, were deployed to attack to the east on a collision course with the approaching French, and i exactly equal strength, eight corps against eight. Of this equality Joffre's headquarters were quite unaware. The main French reconnaissance force, Sordet's Cavalry Corps, had criss-crossed the Ardenees between 6 and 15 August without detecting the enemy's presence. The troopers had ridden bare their horses' backs - French cavalry had the bad habit of not dismounting on the march - but seen neither hide nor hair of the enemy. As a result, GQG had assured both de Langle, Fourth Army, and Ruffey, Third Army on 22 August that 'no serious opposition need be anticipated' Reports from French aviators had confirmed this wholly false judgement throughout the previous week.
The Germans were better informed than the French. Their aviators had reported significant enemy movements on the front of Fourth Army and, though what had been observed was the northward march of elements of Lanrezac's Fifth Army towards the Meuse, the mistaken interpretation alerted the Germans to Joffre's real intentions. On 20 August the Crown Prince's army had remained in its positions while its heavy artillery had brought the French frontier fortresses of Montmédy nad Longwy - both old and ill-defended - under bombardment, but on the morning of 22 August both it and Fourth Army were on the march. Fourth Army was particularly concerned with the danger of being outflanked and its headquarters issed orders for the corps on its left to take particular care to maintain contact with its neighbour.
Thats all I can do for tonight, I'll continue tomorrow with some more from it.