After the French defeat at the battle of Le Bourget and hearing of the surrender of Metz, morale began to drop in Paris. Attempting to boost moral in the city, General Louis Jules Trochu decided to attempt a breakout which could possibly then link up with the French Army of the Loire.
On November 30 Auguste-Alexandre Ducrot led 80,000 men towards the villages of Champigny and Brie on the east bank of the Marne River. This section of the German lines was held by the Württemberg Division of the Prussian 3rd Army. On the 29th the Marne had flooded and a French reconnaissance attack turned into a disaster when 1,300 troops were lost. The main attack was to come the next day followed by a series of diversionary attacks. French artillery drove German advance units from the villages of Brie and Champigny and allowed Ducrot's troops to cross the Marne on pontoon bridges. Ducrot established a bridgehead on the opposite bank of the river at the two villages and advanced up a plateau towards Villiers. The Württemberg Division was so well entrenched that the French artillery did little to dislodge them and the attack stalled. Ducrot called on his III Corps, which had crossed the Marne north of Brie to assault Villiers from the north. The III Corps hesitated too long to attack to be of any use and now Ducrot was fighting a defensive......