The German War , also known as the Austro-Prussian War , of 1866 was the armed conflict between the German Confederation led by Austria on the one hand and Prussia and its allies on the other. Apart from smaller German states, Italy also belonged to these allies of Prussia . Austria had also signed a secret treaty with France , which remained neutral.
The conflict was later referred to as the second German war of unification . The previous war, the German-Danish war of 1864, created one of the reasons for the German war with the Prussian-Austrian conquest of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein . The third of these wars was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71.
The real cause of the German War was the rivalry between Austria and Prussia in the German Confederation. Austria was regarded as the presidential power, wanted to maintain its position and essentially keep the German Confederation. Prussia, on the other hand, insisted that the German Confederation be converted into a federal state. The Prussian Prime Minister Bismarck presented this goal in a plan to the member states on June 10, 1866.
Shortly afterwards, Prussian troops marched into Holstein . This duchy was administered by Austria. A decision of the German Confederation of June 14, 1866 ordered measures against Prussia. Immediately afterwards the war began. During the war Austria did not succeed in uniting the armies of the loyal states under a common command. Instead, the major armies of Bavaria and Hanover protected their own territories. Austria's troops were defeated by Prussia on July 4th at Königgrätz .
Prussia renounced maximum goals and sought an early peace with Austria. In the preliminary peace in Nikolsburg , Austria recognized that Prussia was allowed to form a closer alliance in northern Germany. The Peace of Prague followed, as well as peace agreements with the other war opponents. They got away with almost no loss of territory. Instead, Prussia annexed several opponents of the war in northern Germany and Frankfurt.
From the Prussian point of view, the German Confederation ceased to exist on June 14, as the resolution at that time was illegal. The defeated states now had to recognize that the German Confederation had been dissolved . Prussia formed the August Alliance of August 18 with its allies and the former enemies of the war in the north . It replaced the states' military protection of the German Confederation and prepared the establishment of a north German federal state. This happened with the Federal Constitution of July 1, 1867 . This North German Confederation was the preliminary stage of the German Empire of 1871. The German War thus opened up the development towards the German federal state, namely as a small German solution , i.e. a national unification of Germany without Austria .
Originally the German War was referred to as the Prussian-German War , with which the main parties to the conflict - Prussia against the German Confederation - were reproduced. Today the term German War is the most common term in historical studies , outside of Germany also the Prussian-Austrian War (in Austria). Other historical or alternative names are Unification War , Seven Weeks War , German-German War , German Federal War , German Fratricidal War and German-Austrian War .
Despite the participation of the German Confederation, neither side claimed that it was a " federal war ". That would have been a federal war against a foreign attacker who was not a member of the German Confederation. Rather, from the Austrian point of view, the dispute was a federal execution , not in name, but in substance. A federal execution is a measure against a member state (here: Prussia) that violates federal law. From the Prussian point of view, however , the federal government was dissolved by the allegedly illegal federal decree of June 14th . According to this interpretation, the dispute should therefore be assessed as an international conflict according to international law standards. If today the dispute is called “war”, it is because Prussia was able to enforce its view in the peace treaties, according to Ernst Rudolf Huber.
The expression "German" in the term German War can be criticized for the fact that not only Germans and also not only German states were involved. The federal territory was not congruent with the areas in which exclusively or predominantly Germans lived. In addition, Italy , which was allied with Prussia on the basis of the Prussian-Italian alliance treaty , was involved in the war. From the Italian point of view, they made up the Third Italian War of Independence .
The causes of the war lay in the Austro-Prussian dispute over the leadership role in the German Confederation ( German dualism ). Already in the autumn crisis of 1850 there was almost a war between the two main powers in the federation. Against the background of Prussia's leading role in the German Customs Union to the exclusion of Austria, economic prosperity , but also the Prussian military tradition valued in reactionary circles, there were incentives to seek the final decision on the question of power. The pretext for the war in 1866 was the dispute over the administration of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein after the end of the German-Danish War .
The prospects of victory for Prussia in 1866 were also favorable, because Austria was in a severe financial crisis and had had a difficult relationship with Russia since its attitude in the Crimean War, which was perceived as ungrateful at the St. Petersburg court . Despite the family ties between the Tsar and the pro-Austrian dynasties in Darmstadt and Stuttgart, this made military aid unlikely. In addition, there were resentments about the end of internal German stability. The Alvensleben Convention of 1863 had already won Prussia the confidence of the Tsar, while Austria had criticized Russia's violent suppression of the Poles . St. Petersburg was also tied up because of internal problems and before the outbreak of war only had an impact on events with unsuccessful attempts at de-escalation.
Britain's interests were little affected by the impending war. London supported a peace initiative by the non-German great powers with moderate commitment, but Berlin succeeded in persuading France , which was much more active in terms of its German policy, to withdraw. The Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck had used the Paris efforts to change the territorial status quo for his own purposes. He had the French Emperor Napoléon III. met in Biarritz (September 3, 1865) and made him hope that France could acquire territories like Wallonia or Luxembourg. However, Bismarck did not make himself dependent on the Kaiser, as he retained the option of a negotiated solution with Austria for the time being. Paris granted neutrality on Bismarck's terms and later (in vain) had to take care of shifting borders itself, while Berlin should not be obliged to actively promote it.
Bismarck was also able to win Italy , which was on friendly terms with France, for his plans, as it claimed Veneto , which was part of Austria. An offer by Austria to voluntarily cede this area, submitted under pressure from France, came too late: On April 8, 1866, Prussia and Italy had already concluded a secret attack alliance against Austria , limited to three months , through which Prussia violated Article XI (and the general Art III in connection with Art. II) of the German Federal Act . Austria in turn signed a secret treaty with France and promised a French-dominated Rhineland.
With the plan of a federal reform of June 10th , which was supposed to replace the envoy congress under the Austrian presidency with an elected parliament, the Prussian government aimed propagandistically at winning over the national movement. The Prussian constitutional conflict weighed heavily on the relationship with the Prussian-friendly, Protestant-dominated German National Association .
In order to settle the disputes on a federal basis and to gain more support from the federal states, Austria turned to the Bundestag of the German Confederation on June 1, 1866 and, in agreement with the population, left it to decide on the future of Holstein . The duchy was under Austrian administration, but to the chagrin of Prussia, Austria tolerated the secondary government of Duke Friedrich VIII of Schleswig-Holstein and decided, in agreement with him, to convene the Holstein assembly of estates. Prussia viewed this procedure as a breach of the Gastein Convention , in which Prussia and Austria had divided their spheres of influence in the so-called condominium (joint territorial rule) Schleswig-Holstein in 1865 and determined their policy.
On June 9, Prussian troops marched into Holstein, whereupon Austria applied to the Bundestag to mobilize federal troops for the purpose of federal execution for prohibited self-help by Prussia . Whether Prussia should really be militarily forced to comply with federal obligations remained open. On June 14, the Bundestag approved the motion by a majority and soon afterwards appointed Karl von Bayern as federal general . Prussia claimed that this was a breach of the federal constitution and declared the federation dissolved. The formal self-dissolution followed after the defeat parallel to the Peace of Prague on August 23, 1866 in Augsburg .
- the Grand Duchies of Oldenburg and Mecklenburg-Schwerin and the Free Hanseatic Cities of Hamburg , Bremen and Lübeck , which together made up the 13th Goeben Division ,
- the Duchy of Braunschweig and the Duchy of Saxony-Altenburg , whose troops fought in the Reserve Army Corps,
- the Duchy of Anhalt , which also provided reserve troops, but who did not take part in the fighting,
- the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and the Principality of Lippe , whose soldiers were involved in the Main Campaign,
- the Principality of Waldeck-Pyrmont , which had no troops of its own, as well
- the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz , which also did not provide any troops due to delayed mobilization.
In the course of the war, some initially neutral states sided with Prussia: on June 26, 1866, the Principality of Reuss Younger Line and on July 5, the Grand Duchy of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach . The principalities of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen only concluded an alliance with Prussia on August 18, after the fighting had ended. On the same day, the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe changed sides.
The German Confederation, led by Austria , also included the kingdoms of Saxony , Bavaria and Hanover (retired on June 29, 1866) with their own armies. King Ludwig II of Bavaria wanted to remain neutral in the looming war between Prussia and Austria for leadership in Germany and to keep his country out of direct warfare. Austria insisted on adhering to the alliance obligations agreed in the German Confederation. Bavaria and its king initially maneuvered between the desire for neutrality and the obligation to form an alliance.
The Kingdom of Württemberg , the Grand Duchy of Hesse , the Grand Duchy of Baden , the Duchy of Saxony-Meiningen , the Electorate of Hesse , the Duchy of Nassau and the Free City of Frankfurt formed the Federal Corps from their troops .
The Principality of Liechtenstein supported the Austrian army against Italy with its troop contingent without any contact with the enemy. Without a settlement with Prussia, it left Germany in 1866 at the end of the Confederation because of its geographical location, but was afterwards closely tied to Austria. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , which, like the Duchy of Limburg , which had belonged to the federal government since 1839 , was ruled by the Dutch king, who had no interest in risky partiality, remained neutral. After the war, Limburg, which was relatively insignificant due to its provincial status, belonged only to the Netherlands. The London Conference in 1867 declared Luxembourg sovereign and perpetually neutral. Luxembourg stayed in the German Customs Union.
On May 11, 1866, Ludwig II signed the mobilization order , with which Bavaria entered the German war between Austria and Prussia as a member of the German Confederation on the side of Austria . At the same time, however, under Prussian pressure, Austria was refused to use the strategically important Regensburg – Pilsen – Prague railway line.
After Prussian units marched into the Kingdom of Saxony without a fight, the Prussian 1st Army under Prince Friedrich Carl moved into the Habsburg Kingdom of Bohemia on June 23 via Seidenberg and Zittau , and the Elbarmee under General Herwarth von Bittenfeld via Waltersdorf and Schluckenau . On June 25th, a battle took place near Liebenau . On June 26th there were the first major skirmishes at Hühnerwasser ( Kuřívody ), Sichrow , Turnau ( Turnov ) and the Battle of Podol between various units of the Prussian 1st Army and the Elbarmee on the one hand and the 1st Austrian and Saxon Corps on the other hand. The next day, the Prussian 2nd Army under Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm crossed the Riesengebirge over several passes , with the battles at Nachod and Trautenau . The latter meeting was the only one in the entire war that was victorious for the Austrian troops. On June 28th, the Austrians were defeated in the Battle of Skalitz and Thrush and the Battle of Münchengrätz .
Finally, on June 29th, the battle of Gitschin between the Prussian 1st Army and the withdrawn Austrian 1st and Saxon Corps took place, in the east there were the battles of the Queen's Court and the Swine Skull ( Svinišťany ). After these last-mentioned encounters, both armies lost touch with each other, and it was not until July 2 that the formation of the Austrians and Saxons northwest of Königgrätz was cleared up.
Prussian troops from Minden and Hamburg (they were regularly stationed in the city republic) were defeated by the army of the Kingdom of Hanover on June 27, 1866 near Langensalza . However, the Hanoverians had to surrender on June 29, 1866 due to their high losses, the lack of supplies and the now large numerical superiority of the Prussians. The Prussian allies attacked Kassel and Frankfurt am Main , while the right wing of the Prussian Army on the Main suddenly appeared at the gates of Nuremberg .
In the south, Austria had defeated the Italian army under General Alfonso La Marmora near Custozza on June 24, 1866 . The Austrian Adriatic fleet under Wilhelm von Tegetthoff won on the island of Lissa ( Vis ) on July 20 over the superior Italian fleet. It was probably one of the last naval battles won by the ramming tactic . The need to distribute the troops on two fronts, however, was one of the main reasons for the ultimate defeat of Austria - and thus formally of the German Confederation - along with the backward weapon technology compared to Prussia. Prussia had the 4 pounder field cannon C / 64 . This was significantly lighter and more mobile than the six-pounder ( C / 61 and its successor C / 64 ), could fire up to 10 rounds per minute , had a long maximum range (grenade) of 3450 m and good accuracy .
The decision was finally made in the battle of Königgrätz : The united Prussian armies won on July 3, 1866 at Königgrätz in Bohemia under the personal leadership of King Wilhelm of Prussia against Austria. The Prussian Chief of Staff was Helmuth Graf von Moltke , the spiritual father of the entire Prussian deployment (see also Strategic Railway ). On the Austrian side, hopes rested for the most part on Commander-in-Chief Ludwig von Benedek , who was considered a military genius , because Prussia was easily numerically superior in this battle (221,000 to 215,000) and also technically superior to Austria. Benedek had previously tried to refuse the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Army, as he had no experience on the Bohemian arena and the Northern Army was in an extremely desolate state, which should also help to decide the battle. After the battle of Königgrätz he was removed from office and brought before a court martial . However, the proceedings were discontinued under imperial pressure and Benedek ordered to remain silent about the battle until the end of his life, which he also adhered to. Helmuth von Moltke had decided to let the Prussian army march in three separate armies. First, the Elbarmee under the direction of Eberhard Herwarth von Bittenfeld and the 1st Army under the direction of Prince Friedrich Karl Nikolaus of Prussia opened the fighting against the Austrian army, which had taken position north of the Königgrätz Fortress. Despite high losses, the Prussian attacks initially failed to achieve any notable success, so that the decisive battle role fell to the 2nd Army under the leadership of the Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm , which approached the battlefield in forced marches. The Crown Prince decided to flank the imperial forces to relieve the other two Prussian armies. He succeeded in occupying the heights of Chlum , from which his artillery could open a devastating flank fire against the Austrian army. The last battle finally took place in the Main Campaign on July 26, 1866 near Uettingen , in which Prussia was victorious over the Bavarian Army . With the battle near Blumenau on the last day of the war, the Austrians turned away the occupation of Pressburg by Prussian troops.
A total of around 600,000 soldiers fought on the part of the German Confederation, around 500,000 for Prussia and its German allies, and around 300,000 soldiers for the Kingdom of Italy . With universal conscription, Prussia compensated for the disadvantage that the country only had about half the population of the Habsburg multi-ethnic state. According to the respective General Staff Works, the individual losses on the Bohemian-Moravian, Lower Austrian and Hungarian theaters of war were as follows:
- Austria: 1,313 officers, 330 killed, and 41,499 men, 5,328 killed
- Saxony: 55 officers, including 15 dead, and 1,446 men, including 120 dead
- Prussia: 359 officers, 99 killed, and 8,794 men, 1,830 killed
The armed forces of Prussia, Italy and their allies suffered a total of about 37,000 dead and wounded, significantly fewer than their opponents.
Exit and consequences
In order to forestall a French or Russian intervention and in order not to deprive a future alliance with Austria of the basis, Bismarck urged not to take full advantage of the victory, but to conclude a quick peace. Instead, Moltke and several officers of the Prussian General Staff planned to march on to the southeast and occupy Vienna. King Wilhelm also planned something similar, who, despite his original opposition to the plans of attack, which he had had to overcome with difficulty, wanted to dictate harsh peace conditions to Austria and to enter Vienna as the victor. With considerable effort, Bismarck succeeded in convincing both sides of his moderate course.
The decisive step to end the war was achieved on July 26, 1866 in the French Emperor Napoléon III. mediated preliminary peace in Nikolsburg after Austria had given in on the main (exit from all-German politics), especially since its military situation was hopeless. The preliminary peace was later confirmed in the Peace of Prague with Prussia and the Peace of Vienna with Italy was also concluded.
Italy won Veneto indirectly, as Austria had formally ceded it to France during the war for subsequent handover to the enemy. On October 1, Prussia annexed the sovereign federal members of Hanover, Nassau, Hessen-Kassel and the Free City of Frankfurt. The Grand Duchy of Hessen-Darmstadt had to cede the Hessian hinterland and the former Landgraviate of Hessen-Homburg to Prussia, Bavaria had to cede the Gersfeld district office in the Rhön, the Orb district office and the Kaulsdorf exclave in Thuringia. This gave Prussia the land connection between its western and eastern provinces. In addition, in the Peace of Prague, Austria transferred the full rights to Schleswig and Holstein.
In addition, Prussia enforced the recognition of its legal view of the dissolution of the German Confederation in the peace treaties . In the August treaties it concluded a military alliance in Northern Germany and prepared the establishment of the Northern German Confederation as a federal state . After the accession of the four southern German states during the Franco-Prussian War, the North German Confederation became the German Empire on January 1, 1871.
Immediately after 1866, however, these southern German states remained independent: the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Württemberg, the Grand Duchy of Baden (recognized at the insistence of France) and, in part, the Grand Duchy of Hesse, which, thanks to Russian intercession, got away with a few small assignments of territory. Its province of Upper Hesse , like the Kingdom of Saxony, was integrated into the North German Confederation, but not annexed. The realization of the southern alliance from the Main to Lake Constance , which was envisaged in the Peace of Prague, failed because the southwest German governments rejected Bavarian dominance. In the peace treaty after the defeat, Bavaria undertook to pay Prussia a war indemnity of 30 million guilders . That was a comparatively small amount, and the loss of territory also remained low.
In Bavaria the ministers and the military leadership were primarily responsible for the defeat, but the Bavarian army was in a desolate state at the beginning of the war. Equipment and organization had been neglected for decades. That was also due to the political course of his monarch. After the dissolution of the German Confederation, the four southern German states were without military protection. They concluded military conventions with Prussia in August 1866, at the same time as the corresponding peace treaties. One speaks of the protective and defensive alliances . In the event of war, the Prussian king became commander-in-chief of their armies.
In retrospect, Austria's ousting from pan-German politics turned out to be permanent, even if Emperor Franz Joseph I did not accept it for the time being. In addition, because of his enthusiasm, Bismarck achieved a great domestic political success, especially since the Prussian House of Representatives subsequently granted him impunity with regard to governing without a statutory budget (acceptance of the indemnity bill ). The dispute over this question split the opposition German Progressive Party .
The relations between France and Prussia, which had been good up to that point, deteriorated for the long term after Prussia's victory. The French Emperor Napoléon III. had actually planned to receive territorial rewards for his mediation (left bank of the Rhine), but was surprised by the speed of the war and came too late with his demands. In France, the call for " revenge for Sadowa " (a place of the battle of Königgrätz ) arose . Since the foreign policy of Napoleon III. Just as the Prussian was designed for territorial expansion, the failure to fulfill these ambitions (rather counterproductive for France's influence in Germany) meant a disappointment that ultimately led to the Paris – Vienna axis. The former Prime Minister of Saxony, Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust , as Foreign Minister and later Chancellor of the new Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy, was unable to assert himself against Bismarck's ingenious calculations with his alliance policy.
Overview of peace treaties and annexations
|Peace Treaty (F)
|Empire of Austria||July 22, 1866||July 26, 1866 preliminary peace in Nikolsburg (W)||23 August 1866 Peace of Prague (F)||Waiver of rights to the condominium in Schleswig and Holstein ; Recognition of Prussian supremacy in northern Germany; 20 million thalers war compensation|
|Kingdom of Bavaria||July 27, 1866||July 28, 1866 (W)||22nd August 1866 (F)||minor loss of territory; 30 million guilders war compensation|
|Kingdom of Hanover||June 29, 1866 (K)||September 20, 1866 (A)||Annexation by Prussian law|
|Kingdom of Saxony||October 21, 1866||Joined the North German Confederation|
|Kingdom of Württemberg||August 1, 1866 (W)||August 13, 1866||8 million guilders war compensation|
|Electorate of Hesse||September 20, 1866 (A)||Annexation by Prussian law|
|Grand Duchy of Baden||July 29, 1866||August 3, 1866 (W)||17th August 1866||6 million guilders war compensation|
|Grand Duchy of Hesse||August 1, 1866 (W)||Peace treaty of September 3, 1866||3 million guilders war compensation; Loss of territory, gains of territory; with the province of Upper Hesse joining the North German Confederation|
|Duchy of Nassau||September 20, 1866 (A)||Annexation by Prussian law|
|Principality of Reuss older line||September 26, 1866||Joined the North German Confederation|
|Duchy of Saxony-Meiningen||October 8, 1866||Joined the North German Confederation|
|Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe||August 18, 1866||Joined the North German Confederation|
|Free City of Frankfurt||September 20, 1866 (A)||Annexation by Prussian law|
Factors of Prussian Success
The Prussian victory was due to various factors. The uniform command structure of the Prussian army with its general staff under Moltke is mentioned . This sought in the sense of an "absolute war", as the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) had outlined, to destroy the enemy troops. For this purpose he used the railroad with great skill to deploy his troops , as had recently been observed for the first time in the American Civil War . The Austrian commander-in-chief Benedek, on the other hand, found himself unable to move the troops that were no longer needed on the Italian front after the victory at Custozza to Bohemia: the Austrian rail network was overwhelmed with this task.
The tactical skill or fire discipline and maneuvering experience of the Prussian soldiers as well as their higher level of education played a role - in Prussia compulsory schooling had already been introduced in 1717. Last but not least, the needle gun , which allowed the Prussians to fire three times as fast as with a conventional carbine, was of considerable importance . This enabled numerically inferior infantry units to develop a level of firepower that had never been achieved before. All states that did not already have firing needle rifles either changed the existing muzzle loaders to firing needle rifles (such as Württemberg) or adopted other systems for rear loading (such as Bavaria, which converted the M / 1858 rifle to the Podewils infantry rifle M / 1858 / 67 amended). Large states such as England, which in 1866 still accepted the change from the Enfield Rifled Musket to the Snider-Enfield Rifle , or France, which accepted both the change a la tabatière ("like the tobacco box") and the Chassepot rifle to orderly, were adopted by this Wave captured. As early as August 3, 1866, it was reported that Austria would accept the change to the Lindner rear loading system.
Battle of Königgrätz: Prince Friedrich Karl Nikolaus of Prussia commands Prussian troops
Anton Romako : Admiral Tegetthoff in the naval battle of Lissa (painted 1878–1880, oil on wood)
Napoléon III, painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter , 1852
Frankfurt am Main has to pay 25 million guilders war contribution to Prussia within 24 hours. Document dated July 20, 1866 with the signature of the Prussian General Edwin von Manteuffel
King George V of Hanover had to go into exile after the annexation of his kingdom by Prussia. Hanover remained a Prussian province for 80 years.
Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I of Hesse-Kassel was the last ruler of northern Hesse as an independent state until the annexation.
War memorial in Trotha Halle (Saale)
Memorial of the fallen for 1866 in Bad Kissingen
War memorial in Haldenwang in the Allgäu
The memorial for the fallen in the campaign of 1866 in Koblenz
Memorial to the soldiers who died in the Löbau military hospital .
Radeberg War Memorial (1879) for the victims of the German War of 1866
Monument to the Battle of Tovačov , Czech Republic
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- Actually 40 million thalers. Austria was granted 15 million, which it was still entitled to under the Treaty of Vienna from the German-Danish War , and 5 million in free food for the Prussian occupation troops.
- District Office Gersfeld ; Bad Orb ; Exclave Kaulsdorf (Saale)
- Hessian hinterland and Landgraviate Hessen-Homburg
- gains: Rumpenheim and Amt Dorheim (both: formerly Kurhessen).
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