To execute this order, the First Army had to extend its cantonments in a southerly direction as far as the line of march of the Second Army, and evacuate its quarters near Ottweiler. This was a difficult matter to accomplish, as all the towns and villages to the north were billeted, and quarters had also to be found for the Ist Corps, now advancing by the Birkenfeld route. General von Steinmetz therefore decided to march his entire forces in the direction of Saarlouis and Saarbruecken. The Second Army had assembled, and was ready for action on August 4th, and received orders to take the field on the farther side of the wooded zone of Kaiserslautern.
[Footnote 44: From The Franco-German War of 1870-71. Permission Harper & Brothers, New York and London.]
Marshal Bazaine had not thought it advisable to proceed to Verdun now that the Germans were so close on the flank of such a movement. He preferred to assemble his forces at Metz, in a position which he rightly supposed to be almost impregnable.
Such a position was afforded by the range of hills, bordering on the west of the valley of Chatel. That side facing the enemy sloped away like a glacis, while the short and steep decline behind offered protection for the reserves. The IId, IIId, IVth and VIth Corps were placed on the ridge of the hills between Roncourt and Rozereuilles, a distance of one mile and a half (German); thus there were eight or ten men to every yard of ground.
A brigade of the Vth Corps stood at Ste.-Ruffine in the valley of the Moselle, the cavalry in the rear of the two wings.
The positions of the IId and IIId Corps were hastily entrenched, batteries and covered ways were established, and the farmhouses in front prepared for defense. To approach this left wing from the west it was necessary to cross the deep valley of the Mance. The VIth Corps on the other hand had no engineering tools; and it is indicative of the general ill-equipment of the French that, merely to convey the wounded to the rear, in spite of the enormous baggage-train, provision wagons had to be unloaded and their contents burnt. This Corps was therefore unable to construct such defenses on the side overlooking the forest of Jaumont as were necessary to strengthen the right wing. This would undoubtedly have been the place for the Guards, but in his fear of an attack from the south, Marshal Bazaine kept them in reserve at Plappeville.
The King again arrived at Flavigny at six o’clock on the morning of the 18th. All officers in command were ordered to report directly to headquarters, and Staff-officers of Army Headquarters were despatched in all directions to watch the progress of the engagement.