Battle of Langensalza
The battle of Langensalza was the first major battle on the western theater of war during the German War . The battle took place on June 27, 1866. In this theater of war, Prussia , allied Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, faced the Kingdom of Hanover . Although the battle ended with a tactical victory for Hanover, Hanover had to capitulate shortly afterwards.
After Prussia had declared war on the Kingdom of Hanover on June 15, 1866, the Prussian troops of the Western Army (later Main Army) under Falckenstein began the advance on the state capital Hanover from Hamburg (General Manteuffel ) and Minden ( Goeben ) the next day . This was preceded by a federal resolution in the Bundestag , which was intended as a defensive measure against Prussia: Prussia had invaded Holstein, contrary to Austria's rights there. The actual background was Prussia's intention to convert the federal government into a federal state. Hanover had voted for the resolution in the Bundestag and rejected an alliance offer by Prussia.
The beginning of the war in the Kingdom of Hanover coincided with the scheduled summer maneuver , which is why the entire army of around 19,000 men with 42 cannons was under arms. The units of the Hanoverian Army , which were scattered in the country and were inadequately equipped for the case of war, were able to evade the access of the Prussian troops and move to Göttingen . In doing so, they succeeded in interrupting the railway line from Hanover to Kassel and thus getting a head start on their pursuers. When they withdrew quickly, however, they left their supplies and almost all of the ammunition in Hanover.
This position in Göttingen could not be held in the long run against the numerically superior Prussian troops under the command of Beyer with approx. 18,000 soldiers who were now also marching from Wetzlar in the direction of Kassel . This third division of the Western Army should actually have taken over the pursuit of the regiments of Hessen-Kassel. The Hanoverian military leadership therefore decided to march south in order to gain contact with the southern German allies, especially the Bavarian army .
With resolute use of all possibilities, this goal could probably have been achieved, even if the VIII Corps of the Federal Army refused to advance north in support. The chance to unite with the armed forces arose in particular because Falckenstein stopped in Hanover and did not pursue energetically there after conquering the capital without a fight, but instead ordered a day of rest for June 18. General Goeben had only started the pursuit the day before, which his division had to attempt on foot because of the interrupted railway line. In response to the news of the day of rest, Moltke ordered immediate pursuit, but this was not implemented. Falckenstein was of the opinion that the Hanoverian army would have no chance of unification with the Bavarians without any supplies. Following further orders on June 22nd, there was no pursuit, this time on the grounds that the railway line had to be repaired first. Only on the personal order of the Prussian King Wilhelm I did the Western Army move on June 24th.
In fact, the Hanoverians had to stop in Göttingen for three days to get new supplies. When the first Prussians appeared in Göttingen, the Hanoverian troops had already withdrawn to the southeast and were only a few days' march away from being united with the armed forces. Such a union would have created an association in the western theater of war that would have outnumbered the three divisions of the western army and could have threatened the retreat and supply routes of the Elbe army advancing to Bohemia and the first army.
Needless to say, George V , who was with the army, and the army command entered into negotiations with Prussia. They meant that the advance - the army had meanwhile reached Langensalza - was not continued.
During these negotiations, the Prussian army command succeeded in bringing in a formation of approx. 9,000 men under Major General Flies as a security association, which blocked the route of retreat. This association consisted of five regular battalions of fortress garrisons and seven battalions of the Landwehr with a total of 22 cannons and was concentrated in Gotha . At the same time, the three divisions of the Western Army were in forced marches in pursuit and the blocked railway lines were available again.
Georg V was thus enclosed on three sides, Goeben was already behind Kassel in the north, Beyer had reached Eisenach from the west , and Flies was in the south. Without support from the armed forces, Georg stopped in Langensalza. Moltke feared marching off with a long pursuit to the east into the rear of the Prussian army. This would have jeopardized the strategic plan. Moltke therefore ordered Flies to hold his position against a feared outbreak until Goeben and Beyer had approached. Such an outbreak to the south was still possible with a power ratio of 2: 1 against the Prussians.
Instead, Flies attacked himself. From this the battle of Langensalza developed on June 27, 1866.
Positions and troop strengths
The Hanoverian Army under the command of Major General Alexander von Arentschildt had taken a defensive position on the Kirchberg near Merxleben, 1.5 km north of Langensalza. This position was reinforced by the two rivers Unstrut and Salza , which made it even more difficult to approach. The army numbered around 17,000 men, excluding the mostly unarmed reservists who had joined the army after June 15. The Prussian armed force with five line battalions, seven Landwehr battalions including the contingent of the allied Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was about 9,000 men strong and thus clearly outnumbered the Hanoverians. According to another source (Schubert), the associations were roughly equally strong, but the Hanoverians were inferior in equipment (lack of needle guns ). The Hanoverians won, but their losses were very high, and without a train they threatened to run out of ammunition, so that they ultimately had to surrender two days later.
Advance of the Prussians
The Prussian Association under the command of Major General Eduard Moritz von Flies began its advance on Langensalza on the morning of June 27th. The Hanoverian battalion posted here to cover the city withdrew behind the Unstrut before the Prussian attack. The Prussian troops took up position on the south bank of the river, but could not seriously endanger the strong position of the Hanoverians. At this point - so most military historians - the battle should have been broken off; because it was clear that the Hanoverian army did not want to march north-east in the direction of Sondershausen , but continued to stand at Langensalza. Because of the numerical inferiority, no decisive success could be achieved on the Prussian side. Since the Prussian Commander-in-Chief von Flies suffered an attack of weakness in this critical phase and was unable to give appropriate orders, the good time to break off the battle was missed.
The Hanoverian counterattack
On the Hanoverian side, it was initially assumed that the Prussian forces were clearly superior. Therefore, the Hanover leadership had limited itself to maintaining the defensive position. As soon as it became clear in the course of the battle that they were dealing with an outnumbered enemy, the decision was made to counterattack. The attack on the left wing (Brigade Bothmer ) failed because of the unfavorable terrain when crossing the Unstrut and the stubborn resistance from the Prussian side. The attack on the right wing of Hanover was very successful. Little by little the Prussian forces were moved from their partly fixed positions, e.g. B. Kallenbergs Mühle, and finally the town of Langensalza, which was important for supplying the Hanoverian army, was recaptured.
Retreat of the Prussians
Thereupon the Prussian leadership ordered the withdrawal. The withdrawal order reached some units very late, so that they first had to find their way isolated from the main forces. During the retreat they were attacked several times by Hanoverian cavalry southeast of the city, but were able to repel these attacks. The battle ended in the late afternoon.
The Hanoverian Army had achieved success, but this changed little in terms of the unfavorable overall situation. Because of the exhaustion of the soldiers (not least as a result of the great heat that prevailed that day) and the shortage of ammunition, the victorious army could no longer pursue the badly battered Prussian armed forces - as suggested by King George V - and eventually destroy them. As things stand, such an advance would have been the only possible way to perhaps save the army from the attack of the Prussian armed forces. However, this action would probably have used up the last stocks of ammunition, so that the army would hardly have been able to operate even if it had been successful.
In response to the news of the defeat, the highest Prussian army command ( King Wilhelm I , General von Moltke ) ordered the Hanoverian army to be energetically attacked from all sides, thereby forcing them to surrender. The army was largely surrounded by the following day. It became clear to King George V of Hanover and the military leadership that there was now no other way out than surrender. Surprisingly, the negotiations on the Prussian side were not conducted by the Commander-in-Chief, General Vogel von Falckenstein , but by General von Manteuffel , who was subordinate to him . According to the surrender agreement concluded on June 29, 1866, the NCOs and men had to lay down their weapons and were released back home. Horses and all military equipment were to be handed over to the Prussian army. The officers were allowed to keep their weapons, but had to undertake on word of honor not to fight Prussia any more. The Hanoverian King George V and his entourage were free to visit a place of residence of their choice.
Early role of the Red Cross
After the Red Cross experienced its first practical test on April 16, 1864 in the German-Danish War at the Düppeler Schanzen , the second deployment was in 1866 on the battlefield near Langensalza. It was a group of 30 volunteers from the Gotha gymnastics club from 1860. The consul and baron Hugo von Bülow, who was connected to the Red Cross idea, had called on them to take part in basic first aid training and to help the wounded in both armies . They followed suit and appeared with "white, red-crossed armbands" in the spirit of the International Committee of the Red Cross founded two years earlier. One group consisted of patient carriers, the other took care of wound care. Until the end of the fighting, the injured were taken to hospitals in Langensalza and treated there by doctors, military medical personnel, nurses and nuns. Some of them also wore the armbands with the red cross.
The disarming of the Hanoverian army meant the first major Prussian success on the West German theater of war. However, this weakening of Prussia's opponents did not affect the overall outcome of the war. The success came about despite serious shortcomings and some serious mistakes on the Prussian side. In particular in the field of enemy reconnaissance z. Sometimes severe deficits. You led z. B. on the fact that the Bavarian army (allies of Hanover) was accepted only a day's march away on a mere rumor, with corresponding consequences for the formation of the troops. As already mentioned, the battle on June 27, 1866 came about due to incorrect information.
For the Hanoverian army it was not only a matter of honor to venture a fight against the superior Prussian armed forces. A hasty surrender would have weakened Hanover's position in later peace negotiations. In this respect, the battle at Langensalza was also of political significance. Everything, however, depended on the outcome of the struggle between the main adversaries Prussia and Austria. The decision was made just six days later with the Prussian victory over the Austrian army at Königgrätz . Now the fate of the Kingdom of Hanover was in Prussian hands. On October 1, Prussia annexed Hanover and three other German states.
- Battle of Homburg an der Unstrut (Langensalza, 1075)
- Heinrich Schwerdt : The battle at Langensalza . In: The Gazebo . Issue 28 and 29, 1866, pp. 441-446, 457-460 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).
- Heinrich Schwerdt : Once more from the Langensalza battlefield . In: The Gazebo . Issue 31/32, 1866, pp. 499–503 ( full text [ Wikisource ] - illustrated by A. Sundblad).
- Georg Hirth : Self-confessions of a seriously wounded man . In: The Gazebo . Issue 43, 1866, pp. 672-674 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).
- Brother Fritz . In: The Gazebo . Issue 26, 1867, pp. 410-412 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).
- Found and lost again . In: The Gazebo . Issue 37, 1867 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).
- Georg Heinrich Schwerdt : The Hanoverians in Thuringia and the Battle of Langensalza 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 1). Rockstuhl Publishing House, Bad Langensalza, Reprint 1866/2001, ISBN 3-934748-57-0 .
- We funny Hanoverians! (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 2). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza 2001, ISBN 3-934748-68-6 ; Eyewitness accounts.
- A war history of the third 4-pound battery (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 3). Verlag Rockstuhl, Bad Langensalza, 2001, ISBN 3-934748-71-6 ; Eyewitness accounts.
- Official report on the war events between Hanover and Prussia in June 1866 and the relation to the battle on June 27, 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 4). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, Reprint 1866/2001, ISBN 3-934748-72-4 .
- Carl Bleibtreu: Langensalza and the Main Campaign 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 5). Verlag Rockstuhl, Bad Langensalza, Reprint 1866/2001, ISBN 3-934748-73-2 .
- The participation of the Aschersleben Occupation Battalion, 2nd Magdeburg Landwehr Regiment No. 27, in the eight-day campaign against the Hanover Army Corps in June 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 6). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, Reprint 1866/2001, ISBN 3-934748-74-0 ; Eyewitness accounts.
- Theodor Fontane : The German War of 1866 - excerpt "Langensalza" (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 7). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, 2001, ISBN 3-934748-75-9 .
- Kahnert: The war events of 1866 in the Duchy of Gotha and the Gotha gymnasts at the time of the Langensalza meeting (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 8). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, 2002, ISBN 3-934748-76-7 .
- Victor von Diebitzsch: The Royal Hanoverian Army on their last combat in June 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 9). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, 2002, ISBN 3-934748-77-5 . (original digitized version )
- Friedrich Freudenthal: Memories of a Hanoverian infantryman from Lüneburg to Langensalza 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 10). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, 2002, ISBN 3-934748-78-3 .
- The Ducal Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Infantry Regiment 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 11). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, 2002, ISBN 3-936030-10-3 ; Eyewitness accounts.
- G.Wolfram: The Hanoverian Army and its fate in and after the disaster in 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 12). Verlag Rockstuhl, Bad Langensalza, 2002, ISBN 3-936030-11-1 .
- Friedrich Regensberg: Langensalza 1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 13). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, 2002, ISBN 3-936030-12-X .
- Julius Hartmann: My experiences during the Hanoverian period 1839–1866 (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 14). Rockstuhl Verlag, Bad Langensalza, Reprint 2005, ISBN 3-936030-13-8 .
- Hermann Gutbier: The battle for Langensalza on June 27, 1866 - A memorial book (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 15). Verlag Rockstuhl, Bad Langensalza, Reprint 2006, ISBN 3-936030-14-6 .
- Klaus Pfeifer, Erich Neuss: The Battle of Langensalza on June 27, 1866 and the world's first deployment of the Red Cross on the battlefield (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 17). Verlag Rockstuhl, Bad Langensalza, Reprint 2007, ISBN 978-3-938997-89-5 .
- Gudrun Keindorf, Thomas Moritz (ed. On behalf of the association “Friends of Burg Plesse” eV): “Bigger even than Heinrich the Lion.” King George V of Hanover as builder and identity founder. Accompanying volume for the exhibition. State and University Library Göttingen, Paulinerkirche. Mecke Verlag, Duderstadt 2003, ISBN 3-936617-16-3 , pp. 62–66 and 108–110 with a plan of the area around Langensalza and literature on the battle of Langensalza.
- Oskar Lettow-Vorbeck: History of the war of 1866 in Germany. ES Mittler and Son, Berlin 1902.
- Dr. Hoffmann, Garrison Prediger : Memories of Langensalza from the summer of 1866. Schmorl & von Seefeld 1867, British Library , ISBN 0-274-64566-1 .
- List of casualties - Battle of Langensalza, 1866
- Description of the monuments commemorating the Battle of Langensalza on June 27, 1866 ( Memento from February 1, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
- As with Pyrrhus
- Schubert: Lower Saxony history .
- Geoffrey Wawro: The Austro-Prussian War. Cambridge University Press, 1997, ISBN 978-0-521-62951-5 , pp. 75-81.
- The mobilization of the armed forces was in part not complete until the Battle of Königgrätz , Wawro: The Austro-Prussian War. 1997, p. 74.
- Theodor Fontane : The German War of 1866 - excerpt "Langensalza" (= Battle of Langensalza 1866 , Volume 7). Verlag Rockstuhl, Bad Langensalza, 2001, ISBN 3-934748-75-9 , pp. 6-9.
- Wawro: The Austro-Prussian War. 1997, p. 76.
- The Wetzlar Kassel railway line had been interrupted; Wawro: The Austro-Prussian War. 1997, p. 76.
- Lettow-Vorbeck: History of the war of 1866 in Germany. 1902, p. 187.
- Wawro gives the strength with 19,000 men and 42 cannons
- Meyers Konversationslexikon from 1885 gives a strength of 8,200 men with 24 cannons
- Klaus Pfeifer: Historical keyword. Langensalza: First appearance of the Red Cross in the war . In: Red Cross. No. 3/2001, pp. 32-33.