villages 9–12 km northwest and west of Metz, in the vicinity of which a battle took place on Aug. 18, 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71.
After the battle at Vionville and Mars-la-Tour on August 16, the French Army of the Rhine (130,000 troops and 450 guns), commanded by Marshal A. Bazaine, assumed a well-fortified position on the heights west of Metz. Their position extended for 11 km along the Roncourt-St. Privat-Gravelotte line. The German First Army and part of the Second (220,000 troops and 726 guns), under the overall command of General H. von Molt-ke, lost contact with the adversary and continued to march on St. Privat-Gravelotte. Moltke, having incorrectly determined the position of the French forces, initially ordered the German forces to attack not at the right flank but rather at the enemy’s center. He then rushed forces into battle in stages in an attempt to shatter the French defenses with frontal attacks. The Germans, advancing in columns of companies in close formation, suffered heavy losses (about 20,000 men to 13,000 for the French) and were unable to penetrate the defenses of the enemy. Only by night were they able to take St. Privat-Gravelotte.
Bazaine could have defeated the German forces had he taken advantage of the favorable situation. Even though the defensive front of the French troops remained firm, for the most part, Bazaine ordered a retreat to Metz, where the Army of the Rhine was blockaded and after 72 days, on October 27, surrendered.