The Congress of Vienna, held to settle European affairs after the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), completed its work in 1815 after deciding not to unite the German states, creating instead the German Confederation of thirty-nine principalities that replaced the Holy Roman Empire.
The Congress of
When Austria was weakened in 1848 by a liberal revolution in the capital and indifferent performance in putting down an uprising in its Italian provinces,
Otto von Bismarck, Prussian statesman and engineer of German unification.
In 1864 Prussia took advantage of a diplomatic contretemps to join with Austria in wresting the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark. The best way to force the issue was to overrun the provinces, which the Prussians and Austrians were able to do because of the speed of Prussian mobilization, the élan of the Austrian troops, and the effectiveness of Prussian fire tactics. When Prussia made war on Austria in 1866, its aim was to advance three armies as quickly as possible into northern Austria to forestall an Austrian invasion of Prussia and to create the opportunity for an encirclement of Austria’s main force. The Austrians, forced to fight against both the Prussians in the north and the Italians in the south, mobilized in a leisurely fashion, preferring to fight a defensive battle anchored on one of its fortresses, thus missing the opportunity to deal with the Prussian armies individually. Although its northern army escaped encirclement at the Battle of Königgrätz
Because of its 1866 victory, Prussia was able to persuade many German states to join effectively in league with Prussia and create a far larger army, the Army of the North German
Unification of Germany, 1863-1871
One of the decisive events in weapons technology during the era of Bismarck was the invention of the Dreyse needle
Sobered by the way in which the needle gun had cut huge swaths in the Austrian army at the Battle of Königgrätz in
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, chief of the Prussian General Staff and the military architect of the unification of Germany.
Rapid improvements in
The sizes of armies increased remarkably in the nineteenth century, and their control became possible only through their organization into two or more corps, each the size of an eighteenth century army. Each corps was then organized into two or more divisions to facilitate command and control. Professional general staffs became increasingly necessary to plan and support mobilization, logistics, and operations. However, not all nations adopted the general staff
The lightness with which the
Otto von Bismarck (left), with French ministers Adolphe Thiers (center) and Jules Favre, negotiating peace terms at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.
From the beginning of the nineteenth century,
The French first utilized the potential of
The standard battle plan of the era emphasized shock
from different parts of Prussia and concentrate them at the point of battle. When this method of making war worked brilliantly against the Austrians, the French began to reevaluate their reliance on columnar shock tactics and to seek a doctrine built around finding and holding superior positions. Given their long emphasis on the role of morale in shock tactics and the offensive character of their war plan against Germany, the French had not resolved the problem by the start of hostilities in 1870.
Invaluable contemporary accounts of the weaponry, strategy, tactics, and operations of Bismarck’s wars are to be found in Prusso-German official histories, The Campaign of 1866 in Germany (1872), compiled by the Department of Military History of the Prussian Staff, and the five-volume The Franco-German War, 1870-1871 (1874-1884), by the English War Office. The Austrian official history of the Danish war, Der Krieg in Schleswig und Jütland in Jahre 1864 (1870; the war in Schleswig and Jütland in 1864) is by Friedrich von Fischer (1826-1907). The five-volume official French history of the Franco-Prussian War, La Guerre de 1870/71 (1901-1912; the war of 1870-71) is more cold-eyed and rigorous for having appeared so long after the fact. Moltke’s military writings are voluminous. The most useful for the period in question are Moltke’s militarische Korrespondenz aus den Dienstschriften des Krieges 1866 (1896; Moltke’s Projects for the Campaign Against Austria, 1907) and Geschichte des deutsch-französischen Krieges von 1870-71 (1891; The Franco-German War of 1870-71, 1891). A good selection is available in Daniel J. Hughes’s edited volume Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (1993).
An analysis of the military lessons of Austria’s war against Piedmont and France in 1859 that was important for the formation of Austrian tactics in the Seven Weeks’ War is Anton von Mollinary’s Studien über die Operationen und Tactique (1864; studies on the operations and tactics). A thoughtful and influential eyewitness account on the first of Bismarck’s wars is Antonio Gallenga’s The Invasion of Denmark in 1864 (1864). Louis Jules Trochu’s L’Armée français en 1867 (1867; the French army in 1867) provides a description of the French army. The key and crucial role of artillery is thoroughly explored in Carl Edouard von Hoffbauer’s Die deutsche Artillerie in dem Schlachten und Treffen des deutsche-französischen Krieges, 1870-1871 (1876; German artillery in the Franco-Prussian War), and the military use of railroads is analyzed in Alfred Ernouf’s Histoire des chemins de fer français pendant la guerre franco-prussienne (1874; the history of the French railroad during the Franco-Prussian War). F. F. Steenacker’s Les Télégraphes et les postes pendant la guerre de 1870-1871 (1883) discusses military telegraphy.
Badsey, Stephen. The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2003. Bucholz, Arden. Moltke and the German Wars, 1864-1871. New York: Palgrave, 2001. _______. Moltke, Schlieffen, and Prussian War Planning. New York: Berg, 1991. Carr, William. The Origins of the German Wars of Unification. New York: Longman, 1991. Citino, Robert M. “Moltke’s Art of War: Innovation and Tradition.” In The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years’ War to the Third Reich. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005. Embree, Michael. Bismarck’s First War: The Campaign of Schleswig and Jutland, 1864. Solihull, West Midlands, England: Helion, 2006. Gates, David. “The Franco-Prussian War.” In Warfare in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Howard, Michael. 1992. Reprint. The Franco-Prussian War. New York: Routledge, 2001. Shann, Stephen, and L. Delperier. The French Army of the Franco-Prussian War. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 1991. Showalter, Dennis F. Railroads and Rifles: Soldiers, Technology, and the Unification of Germany. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975. Solka, Michael. German Armies, 1870-71: Prussia. Illustrated by Darko Pavlovic. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2004. _______. German Armies, 1870-71: Prussia’s Allies. Illustrated by Darko Pavlovic. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2005. Wawro, Geoffrey. The Austro-Prussian War: Austria’s War with Prussia and Italy in 1866. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996. _______. The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. _______. War and Society in Europe, 1792-1914. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 2000. Battles That Changed the World: The Franco-Prussian War. Documentary. Madacy Records, 1997. Bismarck: Germany from Blood and Iron. Docudrama. Phoenix Learning Group, 2008. Field of Honor. Thierry Brissaud, 1987. The History of Warfare: The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71. Documentary. Cromwell Productions, 2007.
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