The Cannonade of Valmy

20th September 1792 –
the Revolutionary Army’s first victory


On 22nd April 1792, France declared war on Austria and on 8th July declared war on Prussia.

The main Prussian-Hessian army marched towards Paris, but on 20th September 1792 in Champagne, they were halted by the French army. Near the small town of Valmy, the French Revolutionary Army recorded its first victory: 50,000 untrained but highly motivated French soldiers defeated 36,000 German soldiers debilitated by illness.

This artillery-led battle entered history as the “Cannonade of Valmy”, and was percieved as the beginning of a new epoch. Indeed, in France, with the dismissal of King Louis XVI and the proclamation of the Republic on 21st September 1792 – one day after the Cannonade – a new calendar was introduced. The 22nd September 1792 became the first day of year one of the republic.

The Prussian troops hesitated for ten days – and then retreated. They were ridiculed by the French, as this caricature shows: the returning Friedrich Wilhelm II is being whipped by his uncle Prince Henry.