The tinted and dated areas on the map show the sectors recaptured by the government during each day of ‘La Semaine sanglante’ (‘the bloody week’), from 21st to 28th May, when between 20,000 and 25,000 people died. The symbols, shown in the key, denote the position of Communard barricades, artillery batteries, and the routes of the corps of the government army. The buildings destroyed during the battle, including the Palais de Tuilleries, are shown in red. The Prussian army, to the east of the city, is stationed to cut off the Communards retreat.

The map shows the plan of campaign of the French government army in the suppression of the Paris Commune of 1871. It reveals how much both urban planning and military considerations were taken into account by Baron Georges Eugene Haussman in 1859, who, as prefect of the Seine, directed the rebuilding of the city for Napoleon III. The wide boulevards were difficult to barricade while offering excellent fields of fire for artillery. Large bodies of troops and cavalry could move easily along them, and could be deployed to turn the flanks of an obstacle by means of obliquely-intersecting streets and the vast star-shaped places with their radiating routes. It is significant that the government troops first entered the rebuilt western areas of the city, and that the stand of the Communards was in the warren of old narrow streets of the 20th Arrondisement around the Pere-Lachaise cemetery.