Austro-Prussian War

Orfeas Katsoulis | Mar 28, 2023

Table of Content


The Austro-Prussian-Italian War of 1866, also known in German history as the German War and the Seven Weeks War; in Italy it was known as the Third War of Independence: the Prussian and Italian war with the Austrian Empire for hegemony in Germany and control of the Venetian Realm.

Two coalitions participated in the war, led by the two great German powers, Austria and Prussia, respectively. Austria had Bavaria, Saxony, the Grand Duchy of Baden, Württemberg, and Hanover on its side; Prussia had Italy on its side. In addition, each of the adversaries was able to attract several small German states to their side. A total of 29 states participated directly in this war, of which 13 were on the side of Austria and 16 on the side of Prussia.

The war lasted for seven weeks (June 15-July 26, 1866). Austria was forced to fight on two fronts. Technological backwardness and political isolation since 1856 led Austria to defeat. In the Prague Peace Treaty, concluded on August 23, Austria ceded Holstein to Prussia and withdrew from the German Union. Italy received the Venetian Region. The political result of the 1866 war was the final refusal of Austria (the House of Vienna) to unite the German states under its rule and the transition of hegemony in Germany to Prussia, which headed the North German Union - a new confederal state formation.

After the Danish War of 1864, Austrian troops occupied Holstein and Prussian troops occupied Schleswig.

On August 14, 1865 a convention was signed in Hastein under which the Duchy of Lauenburg became full Prussian possession (for the payment of 2.5 million thalers in gold), Schleswig was placed under Prussian control and Holstein under Austrian. The latter was separated from the Austrian Empire by a number of German states and above all by the same Prussia, which made its possession very precarious and risky. But moreover, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck complicated matters by the fact that the ownership of the entire territory of both duchies, Schleswig and Holstein, was shared between Austria and Prussia, in the sense that there was to be an Austrian administration in Holstein and a Prussian one in Schleswig. Emperor Franz Joseph I insisted from the very end of the Danish war that Austria would gladly cede all its "complicated" rights to Holstein in exchange for the humblest territory on the Prussian-Austrian border, cut out of Prussian lands. When Bismarck refused flatly, his scheme became quite clear to Franz Joseph, and the emperor began to look for allies for the coming war. In May 1865 he tried unsuccessfully to establish contact with Bavaria as a partner in the anti-Prussian alliance, in order to demonstrate that his true aim, including in the field of allied policy, was an "aggregate solution" on a petty German basis.

Bismarck accused Austria of violating the terms of the Gastein Convention (Austria did not suppress anti-Prussian agitation in Holstein). When Austria raised this question before the Allied Diet, Bismarck warned the Diet that the question concerned Austria and Prussia only. Nevertheless, the Allied Sejm continued to discuss the problem. As a result, Bismarck annulled the convention and submitted a proposal to the Union Sejm to transform the German Union and exclude Austria from it. This happened on the same day as the conclusion of the Prussian-Italian Union, April 8, 1866.

" convene an assembly on the basis of direct election and universal suffrage for the whole nation, in order to adopt and discuss the drafts of reform of the Union constitution proposed by the German governments."

Bismarck attached great importance to preparations for war in domestic policy and decided to wage war under the broad slogan of the organization of the North German Union. He put forward an official program of such unification, with a sharp restriction of the sovereignty of individual German states, with the creation of a single common parliament, elected on the basis of universal secret male suffrage and designed to be a counterbalance to centrifugal aspirations, with the unification of all the armed forces of the union under the leadership of Prussia. This program naturally alienated most of the medium and small German monarchies. Bismarck's proposal was rejected by the Sejm.

On June 14, 1866, he declared the German Union "null and void. As a result, the remaining German states decided to establish a body of allied executive power directed against the offender, Prussia. Practically the war against Prussia was waged by a coalition of most of the German states under the leadership of Austria. Bismarck appealed to the German people to confront the horror of the "fratricidal war" that had gripped the whole nation:

"For half a century the German Union has been a bastion not of unity but of the fragmentation of the nation, has thereby lost the confidence of the Germans and in the international arena has become a witness to the weakness and impotence of our people. In these days the Union is going to be used to urge Germany to turn its arms against the one of the Allies who proposed the formation of the German Parliament and thereby took the first and decisive step towards the satisfaction of national aspirations. The war against Prussia, which Austria has so longed for, has no Allied-constitutional basis; there is no reason and not the slightest reason for it.

The Chancellor was very concerned about the external justification for the impending war. He turned the matter in such a way that Austria was the first to declare a mobilization. A scheme of the coming Prussian invasion, drawn up by the outstanding military strategist H. Moltke the Elder, was planted on the table of the Austrian emperor.


On June 7, Prussian troops began pushing the Austrians out of Holstein. On June 10, Bismarck sent to the German states his draft of the reform of the German Union, which provided for the exclusion of Austria from it, provoked an armed conflict. On June 11, the Austrian ambassador was recalled from Berlin. On June 14, at the demand of Austria, supported by most of the smaller German states, the Sejm of the German Union decided to mobilize four corps, the contingent of the German Union fielded by the middle and small states. But this decision to mobilize had already been accepted by Prussia as a declaration of war.

Hostilities between the mobilized Prussians and the unmobilized allies of Austria began as early as the next day, June 15; as soon as Austria began to concentrate regiments at the borders, the Prussian troops under General von Moltke completed their concentration and invaded Bohemia. Only the Saxon troops were made ready in advance and withdrew from Saxony, where the Prussians had invaded, into Bohemia to meet the Austrian army. The most valuable thing Austria received from her allies was thus the 23,000-strong Saxon corps.

Chief of the Prussian General Staff, General H. Moltke the Elder, developed a plan for a lightning war, according to which on June 16, 1866 Prussian troops began to occupy the lands that were part of the German Union - Hanover, Saxony and Hesse. The next day, June 17, Austria declared war on Prussia. On June 20, the Kingdom of Italy, fulfilling the terms of the treaty with Prussia, declared war on Austria, which had to wage war on two fronts, on the Italian and Bohemian (Bohemian) theaters. A number of South German and Prussian-occupied states sided with Austria, but they were unable to offer any assistance.

The main front against Prussia was formed by Austria and Saxony, which had up to 260,000 soldiers; here, of course, the bulk of the Prussian troops had to be deployed. Another theater was represented by Hanover and Hesse, states allied to Austria, wedged in Northern Germany and causing interspersions of Prussian possessions; through these states went the routes that connected the Rhine possessions of Prussia with the main mass of its territory. The enemy in this theater was qualitatively and numerically weak - only 25 thousand, but the destruction of it and the elimination of the interlacement connected with it was of great importance for Prussia for the consolidation of the Prussian possessions. The third theater was the South German theater, where we could expect the enemy forces of 94 thousand; however, these troops were still mobilized and scattered, and their vigorous action before the beginning of July could not be expected.

The Prussian army had 20 infantry divisions; in terms of peaceful disposition, 14 of them naturally gravitated to the main front and 6 to the Rhine and against Hanover. In the main theater the 1st Army (6 divisions) and the 2nd Army (8 divisions) were formed. But this ratio of forces between the main and secondary theaters did not satisfy Moltke, who sought to end the war with a crushing blow to Austria. He decided not to temporarily deploy Prussian soldiers against France and South Germany and concentrate almost all the Prussian forces for the rapid defeat of Austria. He allocated only three divisions - 48 thousand to secondary theaters; these three divisions were to immediately invade Hanover from three sides to encircle and disarm the 18 thousandth Hanoverian army, which was quite in the power of the Prussians (a qualitative advantage with more than twice the numerical superiority). Having finished with Hanover and Hesse, three Prussian divisions were to take on the Southern German states. Moltke dragged the remaining three divisions from the Rhine and Westphalia to the main theater, making up the Elbe Army, subordinate to Commander I.

Two reserve corps (from Landwehr and reserve units), to be produced in July, Moltke intended: the first - in readiness - for the main theater, to occupy Bohemia in the rear of the main forces; the second - against Southern Germany.

Bohemian (Czech) Theater

The strategic deployment against Saxony and Austria was carried out in an arc of over 250 km by three armies: The 2nd Army (commanded by Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm) in Silesia, between Breslau (Wroclaw) and the Neisse River (Nisa), the 1st Army (commanded by Prince Friedrich Karl) near Görlitz, and the Elbe Army (General Herwart von Bittenfeld) near Torgau. Thereafter, the Elbe Army was led by Friedrich Karl.

Prussia offered Saxony to disarm immediately. Having received no answer to its offer, on June 16 it declared war and General Herwart von Bittenfeld (commander of the Elbe army) was ordered to move immediately to Dresden. Advancing quickly, Herwart von Bittenfeld managed to seize many bridges, repair the damaged ones, on the 18th he took Dresden, and on the 19th he connected with the 1st Army. King Johann of Saxony and his troops crossed into Bohemia.

Prussia concentrated on the border with Austria an army of 278 thousand men, supported by 800 guns. Since Austria had to assign substantial forces (about 80 thousand men by the beginning of the war) to the Italian theater, the Prussians had a certain numerical superiority in the Bohemian theater - 278 thousand men against the 261 thousand men, who constituted the Austrian Northern Army (Bavaria, allied with Austria, had not sent troops to Bohemia). The head of the Prussian army was King Wilhelm I, in fact, the operations were led by General H. Moltke (the Elder). The Austrian Northern Army was commanded by General L. Benedek.

The main forces of the Austrian Northern Army, first concentrated in the fortified area of Olmutz (Olomouc), moved on June 18 to the area of Josefstadt (Jaroměř) and Königgrce (Hradec Králové) forts in Bohemia. The Prussian High Command gave a directive on 22 June for a concentric invasion of Bohemia with the aim of joining in the area of Gicin (Jicin). The slowness of the Austrian army's advance gave the Prussians an opportunity to overcome the mountain passages. In a number of mainly counter battles Prussian troops were successful. The Austrian army retreated to Josefstadt and then to Königgrätz.

Forced to fight on two fronts at once, the Austrian forces were forced to begin retreating. General Benedek, commander-in-chief of the Austrian forces, was late in deploying his forces and had to catch up with the enemy. After several private clashes, which gave no decisive success to either side, the two armies converged at Königgrätz. Prior to that, on June 27-29, at Langensaltz, the Prussian general Flis, though defeated, was able to delay the movement of the Hanoverian-Bavarian army, which helped the Prussians to block all the retreating ways of the Hanoverian army. Two days later the victors of the battle capitulated to Manteifel. On July 3, the Battle of the Garden, which had a decisive impact on the course of the war, took place. The rapid advance of the Prussian army threatened the loss of Hungary. Soon the Prussians approached Vienna. Subsequently, Bismarck categorically refused to take Vienna, although the monarch and the generals insisted on it. This could have resulted in major political trouble for Prussia, with dubious benefits from the very capture of the city abandoned by the Austrian government. The chancellor was not interested in parades. Such actions of the Prussian army forced the Austrian government to stop resisting and to ask for a peace proposal.

Italian (Southern) Theater

Italy mobilized 200,000 troops, dividing its forces into two armies-the first, commanded by Prime Minister General Alfonso Lamarmora, and the second, of eight divisions, commanded by General Enrico Cialdini. Both were deployed in the lower reaches of the Po River, and were supposedly ready for joint action. However, since neither commander wanted to play a secondary role, and to conduct diversionary actions, each waged his own war. With the entry of Italian troops into the province of Venice (June 20), the Third War of Italian Independence began. The main forces of the Italian army (120 thousand men) of King Victor Emmanuel under the command of A. F. Lamarmora began an offensive from the Mincho River to Verona on June 23, leaving a strong reserve at Mantua. General E. Cialdini's corps (90,000 men) was to attack from the area of Ferrara, Bologna to the flank and rear of the Austrian army. Cialdini, with only one Austrian battalion in front of him, did not take active action, in particular - because of the extremely pessimistic tone of the report sent to him. The Austrian command, forced to wage war on two fronts, sent against Italy the Southern Army (78 thousand men, excluding the garrisons of the fortresses), which under the command of Archduke Albrecht deployed southeast of Verona and on June 24 went on the offensive. At the Battle of Custos (June 24) the Italians suffered a heavy defeat. Having lost up to 10,000 men killed, wounded, and prisoners, the Italian army withdrew behind the Olio River. Only Garibaldi attempted to march into the Trentino valley, but was stopped by Lamarmora, who ordered Garibaldi to cover the northern flank of his retreating army after its defeat at Custoz. On July 3, the Austrians were defeated by the Prussians at Sadova and were forced to move a substantial force from the Italian theater into Bohemia. This allowed the Italians to go on the offensive in the province of Venice and Tyrol, where G. Garibaldi had successfully fought against the Austrian forces. On July 26, Italian troops reached the river Isonzo. While Cialdini was moving across the Po River, Garibaldi managed to achieve some success against General F. Kuhn at Beccek.

Maina Theater of Military Operations

By the rapid attack immediately following the decision of the Allied Council of June 14, the Prussians had put themselves in a favorable strategic position in relation to the Central German states. Although only 45,000 men (the so-called Maine army, under Vogel-von-Falkenstein) were assigned to act against the allies of Austria, it was quite sufficient, because the Central German governments did not believe that the war would really break out, were not prepared for it and acted without the proper energy.

On June 27, the Hanoverian troops withstood a fierce battle with the Prussians at Langensaltz, but on June 29, surrounded by the enemy, had to surrender.

On July 2 General Falkenstein moved against the Bavarians. The latter, numbering 40 thousand, under the command of Prince Charles of Bavaria, were preparing at this time to join near Fulda with the 8th Allied Corps (Wurttembergians, Hessians, Badenians, Nassauians, Austrians), commanded by Prince Alexander of Hesse. On July 4, after a battle between the Bavarians and General Göben's Prussian division at Dörmbach (German) (Russ.), Prince Karl retreated behind the Franconian River Zale. On the same day, the entire Bavarian cavalry, under the command of Prince Thurn-und-Taxis (German) (Russ., retreated from Hünfeld to Schweinfurt, due to the devastating action of a single Prussian grenade among two cuirassier squadrons. Then Prince Alexander also evaded the clash by retreating westward.

On July 10, General Falkenstein forced a crossing of the Saale at Hammelburg and Kissingen, where it came to a bloody skirmish; then he turned suddenly to the west and moved down the Main against the 8th Allied Corps; on July 13 he defeated the Hessians at Laufach (German) (Russ.), and on the 14th the Austrian Neiperg brigade at Ashafenburg and on July 15 he occupied Frankfurt am Main. From here he was recalled, and General Manteifel was appointed chief of the Main army. He was ordered to advance as far south as possible; at the same time a reserve army, composed of Prussian and Mecklenburg troops, under the command of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, was entering the Franconian lands of Bavaria.

Manteifel moved up the left bank of the Main, to the river Tauber, behind which stood the Bavarian and Allied troops. His plan was to advance between them and break them in pieces; but the plan was not carried out, for as early as July 24 General Göben, at Werbach and Tauberbischofsheim (German), attacked the Baden and Wurttembergs so energetically that Prince Alexander immediately withdrew to Würzburg, to join with the Bavarians. Then, on July 25, he offered still weak resistance at Gerchsheim (German.) (Russ.), and after that he moved to the right bank of the Main. On July 25 and 26, in the fights of Helmstadt and Rosbrun, the Bavarians offered stubborn resistance to the Prussian troops but then withdrew to Würzburg.

Then the rulers of the South German dominions hastened to send ambassadors to Nicolsburg, asking for a truce, which, on August 2, was given to them.

Adriatic Sea

Persano showed his weakness by not immediately responding to the appearance of Tegetgoff's ships in front of Ancona on June 27. It was later claimed that the moral effect of this insult, inflicted by the Austrians on a superior enemy force, was great for both sides. Tegetgoff sent the yacht Stadium to scout the enemy's coast, and to determine whether there was an Italian fleet at sea. Receiving a negative response, Tegetgoff requested permission from Archduke Albert to conduct the reconnaissance in person. Permission was given with a delay, otherwise Tegethoff could have been in front of Ancona before the Italian fleet arrived there. Having finally obtained permission, Tegethoff approached Ancona with six battleships and several wooden ships, and found the entire Italian fleet there. For some time he stayed in front of the port, challenging the Italians to a fight. The same slowly gathered under the protection of the coastal guns. In the end Tegetgoff retreated, having achieved no material result - however, having won a moral victory. In a letter to his acquaintance, Emma Lutteroth, he noted that "the success achieved ..., not materially, but morally, should not be underestimated.

Why, then, did Persano not rush to respond to Tegetgoff's challenge? In particular, it was because not all of his ships were ready to go to sea. The "Principe di Carignano" was having her cannons installed from the "Terribile", the "Re d'Italia" and the "Re di Portogallo" were replacing coal that had begun to smolder in their bunkers, the "Ancona" was under repair. In addition, the ships were working on the boats and boats, which also did not contribute to the fastest way to the sea. According to Tegetgoff, half of the ships in the harbor were under steam, which gave them the opportunity to go to sea to meet the Austrians. Persano tried his best to encourage his ships to put to sea as soon as possible, and even personally visited the ships in his scout boat, but another couple of hours passed before the fleet was formed into two columns and ready for battle. Because the ships were scattered throughout the harbor, they had to line up in battle order under the protection of the guns of Mount Conero, the fort that covers the entrance to the harbor, for the next action. When the squadron was finally ready, Persano led it toward the enemy. But the Austrians had already departed.

The reason for the departure of the Austrian squadron is easy to explain. The presence of the enemy fleet in Ancona was a surprise to Tegtgoff, who did not want to engage at that moment. It was enough that he surprised the enemy and damaged the small Esploratore, which had been watching the Austrians and had run away as soon as fire was opened on it. However, all the damage was limited to a few pieces of shrapnel.

The naval minister, Agostino Depretis, who up to a certain point had been patiently waiting for Persano to act, found himself in a very different position after the Prussian army's action on the Elbe. The Austrians offered an armistice and promised to hand Venice over to Napoleon III (with whom they had reached a secret agreement on June 12). Napoleon III would later cede the province to Italy, which would allow the Austrians to save face.

Depretis demanded immediate action from Persano, which would show the world that Italy had gained Venice by force of arms. Forced to be active, Persano decided to seek an encounter with the enemy in the Adriatic. He could no longer ignore the numerous ministerial orders requiring him to seek an encounter with the enemy, even though his ships were unprepared. The order issued on July 8 required him to clear the sea from the Austrian fleet by attacking or blocking the latter in Pole. The minister emphasized and insisted on the execution of this order.

On the day he received the order Persano put the fleet to sea, but as soon as July 13 he returned, which caused great indignation among the Italians. The king and the ministers urged the admiral to take immediate action against the enemy strongholds. No definite plan for the use of the fleet had been drawn up, and Persano decided to attack the island of Lissa, which had been spoken of. Lissa, which was mentioned in the order of the Minister of the Sea on July 8. However, the Italian admiral had neither a map of the island nor reliable information about its coastal defenses.

Persano's squadron set out a second time on July 16, and at dawn on July 18 the Italians were already at Lissa. Slow preparations for the landing began.

North Sea and Baltic Sea

In the North Sea and the Baltic the Prussian fleet encountered no problems - because the Austrian fleet was concentrated in the Adriatic. All it did to mark its presence was to occupy the coastal forts of the Austrian-supported Hanover. This allowed Prussia and its allies to control the Baltic coast from Memel to the mouth of the Ems. During this operation the small battleship Arminius and the gunboats Cyclop and Tiger helped General von Manteuffel and his 13,500 soldiers cross the Elbe in full view of the enemy.'

End of the Austro-Prussian-Italian War

The Prussian command allowed the Austro-Saxon troops to retreat. General Benedek withdrew the remaining troops to Olmutz, providing only weak cover for the Vienna direction. The Prussians resumed their advance: the 2nd Army to Olmuz, the 1st and Elbe Armies to Vienna. August von Benedek was replaced by Archduke Albrecht on July 13. Counterattacks by their cavalry and a powerful barrage of 700 guns saved the Austrians from complete destruction, allowing the half-armed army to go over the Elbe. Austria still had the possibility of organizing a repulse to the enemy on the outskirts of Vienna and Presburg (Bratislava), but the internal situation in the empire, especially the threat of losing Hungary, forced the government of Franz Josef to enter into peace negotiations.

Vienna was covered on the left bank of the Danube by a heavily fortified pre-bridge position, defended by a field corps and 400 fortified guns. The "purely military point of view" in the Prussian army, that is, the views of the higher military circles, demanded that the pre-bridge position be taken by storm and entered Vienna; militarism wanted satisfaction for the successes achieved. But at this time Napoleon III offered his mediation for peace; Bismarck bargained only for details and was very wary of France's demand for compensation on the Rhine. The capture of Vienna in the midst of these negotiations would have been a personal insult to Napoleon III. and a challenge to France. It would have entailed the immediate mobilization of the French army and would have injected new forces into Franz Joseph's resistance, making the subsequent reconciliation of Austria with Prussia, which was part of Bismarck's plans, extremely difficult. The most important institutions of the Austrians had already been evacuated from Vienna to Komorn. The capture of Vienna, the parade of Prussian troops through the streets of this old European capital was entirely unnecessary for Bismarck to achieve his political aims; Bismarck managed to roll the Prussian march somewhat eastward, to Presburg, on the way to Hungary. The retreat of Hungary would mark the end of the Habsburg empire, and the threat of Hungary forced Franz Joseph to become more accommodating. That the Austrians regarded the situation in the same way is evident from the fact that they concentrated all the troops arriving at the Danube, except the corps allocated to Vienna, towards Presburg, to protect the route to Hungary.

Subsequently, O. Bismarck categorically refused to take Vienna, seeking the signing of peace, although the monarch and generals (such as H. Moltke the Elder) insisted on it. This could have resulted in major political trouble for Prussia, with dubious benefits from the very capture of the city abandoned by the Austrian government. After several tumultuous scenes, the king relented. He took a piece of paper and wrote that he must refuse to continue the war,

"as my minister leaves me in a difficult position in the face of the enemy."

The king stated that he was giving this sheet to the state archive. Bismarck saw Austria as a possible ally in the future, and at this stage was ready to limit himself to excluding her from the German alliance. Such sentiments of the Prussian army forced the Austrian government to stop resisting and to ask for a peace proposal.

The Nicolsburg Preliminaries

In the offer of an armistice made by the Austrian side immediately after the battle, the "minister of conflicts" saw a chance to achieve goals that were decisive for the strengthening of Prussia. In doing so, it was possible not to fan the flames of a national revolutionary movement, which threatened the existence of a pan-European statehood. General von Stosch, extremely critical of the head of the Prussian government, being deeply impressed by Bismarck's superiority in this situation, stated

"He was remarkably clear and lively in laying out the demands that should have formed the basis of the peace agreement: the exclusion of Austria from Germany, the unification of Northern Germany, predominantly Protestant in confessional affiliation, as the initial stage of a movement toward large-scale unity...

On July 26 at Nicholsburg a preliminar (diplomatic provisional) peace was signed. In order to safeguard Prussia as far as possible from the French intervention that was to be expected, O. Bismarck, addressing the Prussian envoy in Paris, von der Goltz, emphasized:

"Our political needs are limited to controlling the forces of North Germany in any form... I utter the words 'North German Union' without any doubt, for if we achieve sufficient consolidation, the involvement of the German-Catholic Bavarian element will become impossible. The latter will not for a long time yet voluntarily agree to submit to the power of Berlin."

O. Bismarck wrote to his wife I. Puttkamer on July 9, 1866:

"Our affairs are going well, in spite of Napoleon; if our pretensions are not exaggerated and we do not think that we have conquered the whole world, we shall achieve a peace worth the effort. But we are as quick to fall into rapture as to despair, and I have the thankless task of cooling our fervor and reminding them that we are not alone in Europe, but three other powers that hate us and envy us.

The prime minister was referring to the bitter disputes that were taking place between him and the king over the continuation of the war or its immediate end. It was only at the cost of extraordinary efforts that he was able, with the help of the crown prince, who had hitherto sided with Bismarck's opponents in domestic disputes, to obtain the signing of the Nicolsburg Armistice Treaty of July 26, 1866, against the opinion of the monarch. The treaty left intact Austria's position as a great power and opened the way for Prussia to rebuild Germany without Austria. The gravity of the conflict is evidenced by the entry in the diary of the crown prince of July 25:

"The king and the premier had a violent quarrel, and the excitement is still not subsiding. Yesterday Bismarck cried in my presence because of the harsh things His Majesty had said to him. I had to pacify the poor man, but he was afraid to go back to his majesty.

Victor Emmanuel II, on the other hand, naively believed that the Prussians would continue to fight. Austria agreed to the moderate demands made by Bismarck. When Italy tried to protest against this behavior of an ally, Bismarck reminded them that the Italians had already obtained Venice. If they wished to demand more Trieste and Trento, no one prevented them from continuing to fight one-on-one with Austria. Victor Emmanuel hastened to refuse such an offer. The Pre-Liminal Peace was concluded on August 10, and on August 23 the Peace Treaty was signed in Prague (see The Peace of Prague (1866)), ending the Austro-Prussian War.

Political outcomes

The peace treaty was signed at Prague on August 23, 1866.

In addition, the Austrian Empire recognized the abolition of the German alliance and paid the victors a contribution.

О. Bismarck barely managed to evade Russian insistence on convening an international congress in the spirit of the Paris Peace Conference of 1856, which would have put Prussian success in doubt. However, Napoleon III's intervention in the arrangements that led to the final peace treaty in Prague on August 23, 1866, had to be accepted as inevitable by the "minister of conflicts." At the Prussian-French negotiations, in exchange for Prussia's refusal to cross the Main Line, Napoleon III agreed to Prussia's annexation of the North German territories with a population of up to four million people. This gave O. Bismarck the opportunity to "wrap" Prussia around Hanover, the Electorate of Hesse, Nassau and the old Rhenish city of Frankfurt and ensure the inviolability of his position in Northern Germany. As problematic as this decision might seem in terms of the legitimacy of the monarchy - particularly against the background of defiant rigidity, as in the case of Frankfurt am Main - and of domestic political prudence, it was nevertheless made. Moreover, at the conclusion of the Prague Peace Treaty, the isolated Southern German alliance was mentioned, with an eye to France. It was, however, never created, for O. Bismarck took advantage of the territorial claims to the western regions of Germany, as revealed during the negotiations with the French envoy, and concluded with each Southern German state separately a secret defensive alliance. They were now firmly united with Prussia, not only by economic ties (membership in the German Customs Union), but also militarily. Finally, Article 5 of the Prague Peace Treaty, at the insistence of France, enshrined a principle that by its very nature was alien to both Prussia and Austria - "free determination of the population of the northern regions of Schleswig" as to their possible annexation to Denmark, which happened only after the First World War.

Immediately after the Battle of the Garden, the Austrian emperor telegraphed to Napoleon III that he was giving Venice to him, the emperor of the French. This seemingly strange diplomatic move was, firstly, due to the fact that the Austrian staff wanted to eliminate the Italian front as quickly as possible, sacrificing Venice, and to quickly move his southern army northward against the Prussians to help the defeated army of Benedek. Second, Franz Joseph wanted to emphasize that the Italians defeated at Custos had not conquered Venice at all, but could receive it from the hands of their patron Napoleon III. On October 3 Austria signed the corresponding Treaty of Vienna.

The most important outcome of the Austro-Prussian war was the complete removal of Austria from German affairs, ensuring Prussia's decisive influence on the North German states by creating the North German Union, annexing Schleswig-Holstein and annexing three states to Prussia: Hanover, Hesse-Kastel, Nassau, as well as the free city of Frankfurt am Main. As a result, the new empire was created as a nation-state of Germans, which did not include the numerous foreign (mostly Slavic) territories that had been part of Austria. The Austrians, who were left out of the new state, formed a separate nation as a result.

Under the name of the North German Union, in fact a new state emerged in Central Europe. On this occasion Bismarck wrote in his memoirs:

"...I proceeded on the assumption that a united Germany was only a matter of time and that the North German Union was only the first stage on the road to its resolution."

The sharp weakening of the Austrian Empire as a result of the war, combined with a growing threat from Russia and the growth of pan-Slavic sympathies within the national movements of the Slavic peoples of the empire (primarily Czechs), worried Hungarian leaders. The tactic of "passive resistance" was no longer effective, but rather deprived the Hungarian elite of the opportunity to participate in governing the country. At the same time, national movements of other nations of the Austrian Empire intensified: Czechs, Croats, Romanians, Poles, and Slovaks, who advocated ideas to transform the state into a federation of equal peoples. All this led Ferenc Deák and his supporters to decide to abandon the national ideology of the times of the revolution and radically reduce the scope of their demands in negotiations with the government. As a result, on March 15, 1867, an Austro-Hungarian agreement was concluded between the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and representatives of the Hungarian national movement led by Deák, according to which the Austrian Empire was transformed into the dualistic monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

Having concluded peace with Austria, Prussia began preparations for the third and final act on the road to German unification - war with France. Bismarck saw his main diplomatic goal as ensuring Russia's neutrality this time as well.

"The desire to prevent the unification of Germany "from below" was at the heart of the entire policy of the government of Bismarck, the main task of which was to implement this unification by means of wars under the Prussian monarchy. Narochnitskaya L. И.

Military results

For a long time in Germany, the Austro-Prussian war was called "fratricidal," it was disapproved of by neither liberals nor conservatives, and it was totally unpopular.

The Austro-Prussian War has twelve different names in German alone. Depending on the language, some are used frequently, others are rarely or never used. The following table shows the spellings in the three languages and the pronunciations in the two main of these names.

used frequently used rarely or never used


  1. Austro-Prussian War
  2. Австро-прусско-итальянская война
  3. Отказался воевать с немецкими государствами, но выразил поддержку Австрии и отправил войска только на итальянский фронт.
  4. ^ Clodfelter 2017, p. 182.
  5. ^ a b Clodfelter 2017, p. 183.
  6. Jean-Paul Bled, Les fondements du conservatisme autrichien, 1859-1879, Paris, Éditions de la Sorbonne, 1988 (ISBN 9791035104023, DOI 10.4000/books.psorbonne.51323), « IX. Les conservateurs et la place de l’Autriche en Europe ».
  7. Alan P. Taylor, p. 114.
  8. Alan J. P. Taylor, The Course of German history, chap. 6
  9. Cf. Kurt Hinze, « Die Bevölkerung Preußens im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert (…) », dans Otto Büsch, Wolfgang Neugebauer (éd.), Moderne Preußische Geschichte, vol. I, p. 182 ff., et Wolfgang Köllmann, Demographische « Konsequenzen » der Industrialisierung in Preußen, op. cit., p. 447 ff.
  10. Tiré de Waldemar von Roon, Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben des General-Feldmarschalls Kriegsministers Grafen von Roon, vol. II, Berlin, E. Trewendt, 1892 (réimpr. 1897, 1900, 1905), p. 402, cité dans Johannes Penzler, Kaiser und Kanzler-Briefe, Leipzig, Walther Fiedler, 1900 : « Vergebens versuchte Moltke die Zuversicht des Königs zu stärten. Er brachte immer in Erinnerung, daß es für Preußen vorteilhaft wäre, so bald wie möglich loszuschlagen. Denn Preußen könnte seine mobilisierten Truppen auf fünf Eisenbahnlinien auf den Kriegschauplatz befördern, Österreich nur durch die eine von Wien nach Prag gehende. Wenn demnach beide Staaten gleichzeitig mobilisierten, so könnte Preußen schon am 27. Tage 285 000 Mann versammeln, Österreich aber nur um 110 000 Mann weniger. ».
  11. Allgemeine deutsche Real-Encyklopädie Brockhaus 1867, S. 88.
  12. Ernst Rudolf Huber: Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte seit 1789. Band III: Bismarck und das Reich. 3. Auflage. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart u. a. 1988, S. 556.

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