1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Seven Weeks' War
SEVEN WEEKS' WAR, the name given to the war of 1866 between Prussia on the one side, and Austria, Bavaria, Hanover, Saxony and allied German states on the other. Concurrently with this war another was fought in Venetia between the Italians and the Austrian army of the South, for which see Italian Wars (1848-1870).
In 1850 Prussia, realizing from the breakdown of her mobilization for the war then impending with Austria that success was impossible, submitted to the Austrian demands, but her statesmen saw from the first that the “surrender of Olmütz,” as it was termed, rendered eventual war with Austria “a military necessity.” Preparation was begun in earnest after the accession of King William I., who selected Bismarck as his chancellor, Moltke as his chief of staff and Roon as his minister of war, and gave them a free hand to create the political situation and prepare the military machinery necessary to exploit it. Within six years the mobilization arrangements were recast, the war against Denmark in 1864 proving an opportune test of the new system. The number of field battalions was nearly doubled, two-thirds of the artillery received breech-loading rifled guns, the infantry had for some years had the breech-loading “needlegun,” and steps were initiated to train an adequate number of staff officers to a uniform appreciation of strategical problems, based on Moltke's personal interpretation of Clausewitz's Vom Kriege. There was, however, a fundamental disagreement in the tactical ideas of the senior and those of the junior officers. The former, bred in the tradition of the Napoleonic battle, looked for the decision only from the employment of “masses”; the latter, trained with the breech-loader and without war experience, expected to decide battles by infantry fire only. Both overlooked the changes brought by the introduction of the longrange rifle (muzzle and breech-loading alike), which had rendered impossible the “case shot preparation” which had formed the basis of Napoleon's tactical system. The men were trained for three years in the infantry and four years in the cavalry and artillery, but the war was not popular and many went unwillingly.
In contemporary military opinion, the Austrians were greatly superior in all arms to their adversary. Their rifle, though a muzzle-loader, was in every other respect superior to the Prussian needle-gun, and their M.L. rifled guns with shrapnel shell were considered more than sufficient to make good the slight advantage then conceded to the breech-loader. The cavalry was far better trained in individual and real horsemanship and manœuvre, and was expected to sweep the field in the splendid cavalry terrain of Moravia. All three arms trained their men for seven years, and almost all officers and non-commissioned officers had considerable war experience. But the Prussians having studied their allies in the war of 1864 knew the weakness of the Austrian staff and the untrustworthiness of the contingents of some of the Austrian nationalities, and felt fairly confident that against equal numbers they could hold their own.
The occasion for war was engineered entirely by Bismarck; and it is doubtful how far Moltke was in Bismarck's confidence, though as a far-seeing general he took advantage of every opening which the latter's diplomacy secured for him. The original scheme for the strategic deployment worked out by Moltke as part of the routine of his office contemplated a defence of the kingdom against not only the whole standing army of Austria, but against 35,000 Saxons, 95,000 unorganized Bavarians and other South Germans, and 60,000 Hanoverians, Hessians, &c., and to meet these he had two corps (VII. and VIII.) on the Rhine, the Guard and remaining six in Brandenburg and Prussia proper. Bismarck diverted three Austrian corps by an alliance with Italy, and by consenting to the neutralization of the Federal fortresses set at liberty von Beyer's division for field service in the west. Moltke thereupon brought the VIII. corps and half the VII. to the east and thus made himself numerically equal to his enemy, but elsewhere left barely 45,000 men to oppose 150,000. The magnitude of the risk was sufficiently shown at Langensalza. The direction of the Prussian railways, not laid out primarily for strategic purposes, conditioned the first deployment of the whole army, with the result that at first the Prussians were distributed in three main groups or armies on a front of about 250 m. As there had been no money available to purchase supplies beforehand, each of these groups had to be scattered over a wide area for subsistence, and thus news as to the enemy's points of concentration necessarily preceded any determination of the plan of campaign.
Of the lines of concentration open to the Austrians, the direction of the roads and railways favoured that of Olmütz so markedly that Moltke felt reasonably certain that it would be chosen, and the receipt of the complete ordre de bataille of the Austrian army of the north secured by the Prussian secret service on the 11th of June set all doubts at rest.
According to this, the Austrian troops already in Bohemia, 1st corps, Count Clam-Gallas, 30,000 strong, were to receive the Saxons if the latter were forced to evacuate their own country, and to act as an advanced guard or containing wing to the main body under Feldzeugmeister von Benedek (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 10th corps) which was to concentrate at Olmütz, whence the Prussian staff on insufficient evidence concluded the Austrians intended to attack Silesia, with Breslau as their objective. On this date (June 11th) the Prussians stood in the following order: The army of the Elbe, General Herwarth von Bittenfeld, three divisions only, about Torgau; the I. army, Prince Frederick Charles (II., III., IV. corps), about Görlitz; the II. army under the crown prince (I., V., VI.) near Breslau; the Guard' and a reserve corps of Landwehr at Berlin. As the army of the Elbe was numerically inferior to Clam-Gallas and the Saxons, the reserve corps was at once despatched to reinforce it, and the Guard was sent to the crown prince. Further, in deference to political (probably dynastic) pressure, the crown prince was ordered eastwards to defend the line of the Neisse, thus increasing the already excessive length of the Prussian front. Had the Austrians attacked on both flanks forthwith, the Prussian central (I.) army could have reached neither wing in time to avert defeat, and the political consequences of the Austrian victory might have been held to justify the risks involved, for even if unsuccessful the Austrians and Saxons could always retreat into Bavaria and there form a backbone of solid troops for the 95,000 South Germans.
Advance of the Elbe and I. Armies—This was one of the gravest crises in Moltke's career. To overcome it he at length obtained authority (June 15th) to order the army of the Elbe into Saxony, and on the 18th the Prussians entered Dresden, the Saxons retiring along the Elbe into Bohemia; and on the same day the news that the Austrian main body was marching from Olmütz towards Prague arrived at headquarters. Moltke took three days to solve the new problem, then, on the 22nd, he ordered the I. and II. armies to cross the Austrian frontier and unite near Gitschin, a point conveniently situated about the convergence of the roads crossing the Bohemian mountains. As during this operation the II. army would be the most exposed, the to which the army of the Elbe had now been attached, was to push on its advance to the utmost. Apparently with this purpose in view, Prince Frederick Charles was instructed to break up his army corps into their constituent divisions, and move each division as a separate column on its own road, the reserve of cavalry and artillery following in rear of the centre. The consequences were the reverse of those anticipated. On the afternoon of the 26th the advance guards of the I. army and army of the Elbe came in contact with the Austrians at Hühnerwasser and Podol and drove the latter back after a sharp engagement, but, having no cavalry, could neither observe their subsequent proceedings nor estimate their strength. The prince, seeing the opportunity for a battle, immediately issued orders for an enveloping attack on Münchengrätz by his whole army, but, owing to distances and the number of units now requiring direction, it was late in the following day before all were in readiness for action. The Austrians then slipped away, and the whole of the next day was spent in getting the divisions back to their proper lines of advance. Clam-Gallas then retired deliberately to Gitschin and took up a new position. The Prussians followed on the 29th, but, owing to the lie of the roads, they had to march in two long columns, separated by almost a day's march, and when the advanced guard of the left column, late in the afternoon, gained touch with the enemy, the latter were in a position to crush them by weight of numbers, had they not suddenly been ordered to continue the retreat on Miletin.
Battles of the II. Army: Trautenau and Nachod.—Meanwhile the situation of the II. army had become critical. On its right wing the I. corps (General v. Bonin) had received orders on the 27th to seize the passages over the Aupa at Trautenau. This was accomplished without much difficulty, but the main body was still in the defiles in rear, when about 3 p.m. the leading troops were attacked by an overwhelming Austrian force and driven back in confusion; the confusion spread and became a panic, and the I. corps was out of action for the next fortyeight hours. Almost at the same hour, a few miles to the southeastward, the advanced guard of the V. corps (Steinmetz) began to emerge from the long defile leading from Glatz to Nachod, and the Prussians had hardly gained room to form for action beyond its exit before they too were attacked. Steinmetz was a different man from Bonin, and easily held his own against the disconnected efforts of his adversary, ultimately driving the latter before him with a loss of upwards of 5000 men. Still the situation remained critical next day, for the I. corps having retreated, the Guard corps (next on its left) was endangered, and Steinmetz on his line of advance towards Skalitz (action of Skalitz, June 28th) could only count on the gradual support of the VI. corps. Benedek's resolution was, however, already on the wane. From the first his supply arrangements had been defective, and the requisitions made by his leading troops left nothing for the rest to eat. While trying to feed his army he omitted to fight it, and, with the chance of overwhelming the Prussians by one great effort of marching, he delayed the necessary orders till too late, and the Prussian II. army made good its concentration on the upper Elbe with insignificant fighting at Soor and Königinhof (Guard corps) on the 28th and 29th, and at Schweinschädel (Steinmetz) on the 29 th, the Prussians in every encounter proving themselves, unit for unit, a match for their adversaries. It is customary to ascribe their successes to the power of the breech-loader, but there were actions in which it played no part, cavalry versus cavalry encounters, and isolated duels between batteries which gave the Prussian gunners a confidence they had not felt when first crossing the frontier.
Junction of the Prussian Armies—By the morning of the 30th it was clear that the junction between the two armies could be completed, whenever desired, by a forward march of a few miles. But Moltke, wishing to preserve full freedom for manœuvre for each army, determined to preserve the interval between them, and began his dispositions to manœuvre the Austrians out of the position he had selected as the best for them to take up, on the left or farther bank of the Elbe.
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This is so characteristic of von Moltke's methods and of the tactical preconceptions of the time that it deserves more detailed notice. Neither army had covered its front by a cavalry screen, both preferring to retain the mounted troops for battlefield purposes. Hence, though they were only a few miles apart, each was ignorant of the other's position. Moltke, knowing well the danger for a great army of being forced into a battle with an unfordable river behind it, and with his naturally strong bent towards the defensive in tactics, concluded that Benedek would elect to hold the left bank of the Elbe, between the fortified towns of Josephstadt and Königgrätz, with his right thrown back and covered by the lower courses of the Aupa and the Mettau. Frontal attack on such a position being out of the question, he decided, after weighing well the weaknesses of the Austrian flanks, to direct his principal efforts against the left (i.e. southern), although that entailed the uncovering of the communication of the II. army and a flank march of almost the whole of the I. and II. armies across the front of the Austrians in position. As an eminent French critic (General Bonnal) says, this was but to repeat Frederick the Great's manœuvre at Kolin (q.v.), and, the Austrians being where they actually were and not where Moltke decided they ought to be, the result might have been equally disastrous. Nevertheless the necessary movements were initiated by orders at noon on the 2nd of July, and one phrase in these saved the situation. According to these orders, the Elbe army was directed to Chlumetz on the way to Pardubitz, the I. army diagonally to the south-east across the front of the Austrian position. Two corps of the II. army were to make a demonstration against Josephstadt on the 3rd of July, and the other two were to move in a general direction south-west to keep touch with the I. Prince Frederick Charles was warned to guard the left flank of his marching troops and authorized to attack any forces of the enemy he might encounter in that direction, if not too strong for him. On receipt of these orders (about 3.30 p.m. July 2nd) the prince immediately despatched officers' patrols towards the Elbe, and about 6 p.m. these, having crossed the Bistritz, discovered the enemy in considerable force, at least three corps, behind the line of low hills which here border that stream. The remainder of the Austrian main body, the whole of which was in fact still on the right bank of the Elbe, was hidden from view behind high ground farther to the eastward.
The 2nd of July—The three Austrian corps were exactly the target Prince Frederick Charles desired. He promised himself with the I. and the Elbe armies an easy victory if he attacked them. Orders in this sense were issued about 7 p.m. They instructed every corps under his command to be in readiness for action towards the Bistritz at 3 a.m. on the 3rd, and in a concluding paragraph announced that the crown prince had been requested to co-operate from the north. A copy of the orders and an explanatory letter were in fact despatched to the II. army, another copy also went direct to the king. Both appear to have been delayed in transmission, for the former only reached the crown prince's quarters at 2 a.m. He was then asleep and had given orders that he was not, to be awakened. His chief of the staff, Blumenthal, was absent at the royal headquarters, and since the bearer of the order had not been warned of the importance of the despatch he carried, no one roused the prince. At 3 a.m. Blumenthal returned and read the letter, and without troubling to disturb his chief he dealt with the matter himself in what is certainly one of the most remarkable documents ever issued in a grave crisis by a responsible staff officer. Briefly he informed Prince Frederick Charles that the orders for the II. army based on the instructions received from the royal headquarters, having been already issued, the cooperation of the I. corps alone might be looked for.
Meanwhile the duplicates had reached Moltke, and he, knowing well the temperament of the “Red Prince” and the impossibility of arresting the intended movement, obtained the royal sanction to a letter addressed to the crown prince, in which the latter was ordered to co-operate with his whole command. This vital despatch was sent off in duplicate at midnight and reached von Blumenthal at 4 a.m. In face of this no evasion was possible. Army orders were issued at 5 a.m., but still the urgency of the situation was so little understood that had they been verbally adhered to the force of the II. army could hardly have been brought to bear before 5 p.m., by which time the defeat of the I. army might well have been an accomplished fact. Fortunately, however, the initiative of the Prussian subordinates was sufficient to meet the strain.
Battle of Königgrätz (Sadowa)—Thick mist and driving rain delayed the I. and Elbe armies, but by 5 a.m. the troops had reached their allotted positions. The 7th division now moved forward, taking as point of direction the wood of Maslowed (or Swiep Wald), and supported on the right by the 8th division which was to seize the bridge of Sadowa. The leading troops of the former easily rushed the Austrian outposts covering the wood, but the reserves of the Austrian outposts counterattacked. The firing drew other troops towards the critical point, and very shortly the wood of Maslowed became the scene of one of the most obstinate conflicts in military history. In about two hours the t2 Prussian battalions and 3 batteries found themselves assailed by upwards of 40 Austrian battalions and zoo guns, and against such swarms of enemies each man felt that retreat from the wood across the open meant annihilation. The Prussians determined to hold on at all costs. The 8th division, belonging to the same corps, could not see their comrades sacrificed before their eyes, and pushed on through Sadowa to relieve the pressure on the right of the 7th division. Meanwhile fresh Austrian batteries appeared against the front of the 8th division, and fresh Prussians in turn had to be engaged to save the 8th. Fortunately the Prussians here derived an unexpected advantage from the shape of the ground, and indeed from the weather. The heavy rain, which had delayed the commencement of the action, had swollen the Bistritz so as to check their advance and thus postpone the decision, whilst the mist and driving rain hid the approaching troops from the Austrian gunners, whose shells burst almost harmlessly on the sodden ground. Then when once across the stream it was discovered that unlike the normal slopes in the district the hillside in front of them showed a slight convexity under cover of which they were able to re-form in regular order. The advantage of the breech-loader now began to assert itself, for the Austrian skirmishers who covered the front of the guns could only load when standing up, while the Prussians lay down or fired from cover. The defenders were therefore steadily driven up the hill, and then cleared the front to give the guns room to act. But the Austrian gunners were intent on the Prussian batteries farther back, which as the light improved had come into action. The Prussian infantry crept nearer and nearer, till at under 300 yds. range and from cover they were able to open fire on the Austrian gunners under conditions which renlered the case fire of the latter practically useless; but here was the opportunity a great cavalry leader on the Austrian side might have seized to restore the battle, for the ground, the shortness of the distance, and the smoke and excitement of the cannonade were all in favour of the charge. Such a charge as prelude to the advance of a great infantry bayonet attack must have swept the exhausted Prussians down the hill like sheep, but the opportunity passed, and the gunners finding their position untenable, limbered up, not without severe losses, and retired to a second position in rear. This withdrawal took place about 2 p.m., and the crisis on the Prussian side may be said to have lasted from about i i a.m. By this time every infantry soldier and gun within call had been thrown into the fight, and the Austrians might well have thrown odds of three to one upon the Prussian centre and have broken it asunder.
Arrival of the II. Army.—But suddenly the whole aspect of affairs was changed. The 2nd and 4th Austrian corps found themselves all at once threatened in flank and rear by heavy masses of Prussian infantry, the leading brigades of the crown prince's army, and they began to withdraw towards the centre of their position in ordered brigade masses, apparently so intent on keeping their men in hand that they seem never to have noticed the approach of the Prussian reserve artillery of the Guard which (under Prince Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen) was straining forward over heavy soil and through standing corn towards their point of direction, a clump of trees close to the tower of the church of Chlum. Not even deigning to notice the retreating columns, apparently too without escort, the batteries pressed forward till they reached the summit of the ridge trending eastward from Chlum towards the Elbe, whence the whole interior of the Austrian position was disclosed to them, and then they opened fire upon the Austrian reserves which lay below them in solid masses of army corps. Occurring about 2.30, and almost simultaneously with the withdrawal of the Austrian guns on their left already alluded to, this may be said to have decided the battle, for although the Saxons still stood firm against the attacks of the Elbe army, and the reserves, both cavalry and infantry, attempted a series of counterstrokes, the advantage of position and moral was all on the side of the Prussians. The slopes of the position towards the Austrians now took on the usual concave section, and from the crest of the ridge every movement could be seen for miles. The Austrian cavalry, on weak and emaciated horses, could not gallop at speed up the heavy slopes (1⁄20), and the artillery of both Prussian wings practically broke every attempt of the infantry to form for attack.
Close of the Battle—Still the Austrians made good their retreat. Their artillery driven back off the ridges formed a long line from Stösser to Plotist facing the enemy, and under cover of its fire the infantry at length succeeded in withdrawing, for the Prussian reserve cavalry arrived late on the ground, and the local disconnected efforts of the divisional cavalry were checked by the still intact Austrian squadrons. Whereas at 2.30 absolute destruction seemed the only possible fate of the defeated army, by 6 p.m., thanks to the devoted heroism of the artillery and the initiative of a few junior commanders of cavalry, it had escaped from the enclosing horns of the Prussian attack. In spite of heavy losses the Austrians were perhaps better in hand and more capable of resuming the battle next morning than the victors, for they were experienced in war, and accustomed to defeat, and retired in good order in three organized columns within easy supporting distance of each other. On the other hand, the Prussians were new to the battlefield, and the reaction after the elation of victory was intense; moreover, if what happened at Hühnerwasser affords a guide, the staff would have required some days to disentangle the units which had fought and to assign them fresh objectives.
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Final Operations—The convergence of the Prussian armies on the battlefield ended in the greatest confusion. The Elbe army had crossed the front of the I. army, and the II. army was mixed up with both. The reserve cavalry reached the front too late in the day to pursue. Thus the Austrians gained 24 hours, and the direction of their retreat was not established with any degree of certainty for several days. Moreover the little fortresses of Josephstadt and Königgrätz both refused to capitulate, and the whole Prussian armies were thus compelled to move down the Elbe to Pardubitz before they could receive any definite new direction. Meanwhile Benedek had in fact assigned only one corps with the reserve cavalry to oppose a Prussian advance towards Vienna, and the remaining seven retired to Olmütz, where they were on the flank of a Prussian advance on Vienna, and had all the resources of Hungary behind them to enable them to recuperate. They were also still in railway communication with the capital. On purely military grounds the Prussians should have marched at once towards the Austrian field army, i.e. to Olmütz. But for political reasons Vienna was the more important objective, and therefore the I. and Elbe armies were directed towards the capital, whilst the II. army only moved in the direction of the Austrian main body. Political motives had, however, in the meantime exercised a similar influence on the Austrian strategy. The emperor had already consented to cede Venetia to Italy, had recalled two corps from the south (see Italian Wars, 1848-1870) to the capital, and had appointed the archduke Albert to command the whole army. The Army of the North, which had reached Olmütz on the 10th of July, now received orders to move by road and rail towards Vienna, and this operation brought them right across the front of the II. Prussian army. The cavalry established contact on the 15th in the neighbourhood of Tobitschau and Rochetinitz (action of Tobitschau, July 15th), and the Austrians finding their intention discovered, and their men too demoralized by fear of the breech-loader to risk a fresh battle, withdrew their troops and endeavoured to carry out their concentration by a wide circuit down the valley of the Waag and through Pressburg. Meanwhile the Prussian main army was pursuing its advance under very adverse circumstances. Their railway communication ended abruptly at the Austrian frontier; the roads were few and bad, the country sparsely cultivated and inhospitable, and the troops suffered severely. One third of the cavalry broke down on a march of 97 m. in five days, and the infantry, after marching 112 m. in ten days, had to have a two days' halt accorded them on the 17th. They were then in the district about Brünn and Iglau, and on the 18th the royal headquarters reached Nikolsburg. News had now been received of the arrival of Austrian reinforcements by rail at the capital both from Hungary and Italy, and of the preparation of a strong line of provisional defences along the Florisdorf position directly in front of Vienna. Orders were therefore issued during the 18th for the whole army to concentrate during the following days in the position held by the Austrians around Wagram in 1809, and these orders were in process of execution when on the 21st an armistice was agreed upon to commence at noon on the 22nd. The last fight was that of Blumenau near Pressburg on the 22nd; this was broken off at the stated time.
Langensalza—In western Germany the Prussian forces, depleted to the utmost to furnish troops for the Bohemian campaign, were opposed to the armies of Hanover and Bavaria and the 8th Federal corps (the last consisting of Hessians, Württembergers, Badensers and Nassauers with an Austrian division drawn from the neutralized Federal fortresses), which were far superior in number. These minor enemies were, however, unready and their troops were mostly of indifferent quality. Hanover and Hesse-Cassel, which were nearest to Prussia and therefore immediately dangerous, were dealt with promptly and without waiting for the decision in the main theatre of war. The 13th Prussian division (v. Goeben) was at Minden, Manteuffel's troops from the Elbe duchies at Altona, v. Beyer's division (Federal fortress garrisons) at Wetzlar. On the 15th and 16th of June Beyer moved on Cassel, while the two other Prussian generals converged on Hanover. Both places were in Prussian hands before the 20th. The Hessians retired upon Hanau to join the 8th Federal corps; only the Hanoverians remained in the north, and they too, threatened by Beyer's advance, marched from their point of concentration at Göttingen southward for the Main. With proper support from Bavaria the Hanoverians could perhaps have escaped intact; but the Bavarians considered that their allies (about 20,000) were strong enough by themselves to destroy whichever of the converging Prussian columns tried to bar their way, and actually the Hanoverian general v. Arentschild won a notable success over the improvised Prussian and Coburg division of General v. Flies, which advanced from Gotha and barred the southward march of the Hanoverians at Langensalza. The battle of Langensalza (June 27th) showed that the risks Moltke deliberately accepted when he transferred so many of the western troops to the Bohemian frontier were by no means imaginary, for v. Flies, outnumbered by two to one, sustained a sharp reverse before the other columns closed in. But the strategical object of General Vogel v. Falckenstein, the Prussian commander-in-chief in the west, was achieved next day. By the morning of the 29th Manteuffel and Goeben lay north, v. Flies's column (backed by a fresh brigade) south of Langensalza, and Beyer approached from Eisenach. Whatever had been the prospects of the Hanoverian army five days previously, it was now surrounded by twice its numbers, and on the 29th of June the capitulation of Langensalza closed its long and honourable career.
The Main Campaign—The Prussian army, now called the “Army of the Main,” of three divisions (one being unusually strong), had next to deal with the 7th (Bavarians) and 8th (other South Germans) Federal corps in the valley of the Main. These were nominally over 100,000 strong and were commanded by Prince Charles of Bavaria. The ordre de bataille of the 8th corps is interesting. It was commanded by Prince Alexander of Hesse; the 1st division (3 infantry brigades, 1 cavalry brigade, 6 batteries) came from Wurttemberg; the 2nd division (2 infantry and I cavalry brigades, 5 batteries) from Baden, the least anti-Prussian of all these states; the 3rd division (2 infantry and i cavalry brigades, i rifle battalion, 4 batteries) from Hesse-Darmstadt; the 4th division consisted of an Austrian brigade of 7 battalions (three of which were Italians), a Nassau brigade, and two batteries and some hussars of Hesse-Cassel. The remainder of the Hesse-Cassel troops, which had retired southward before Beyer's advance on Cassel, went to the Rhine valley about Mainz. The centre of the rayon of the 8th corps was Darmstadt, and the Bavarian line extended from Coburg to Gemünden. It appears that Prince Charles wished to march via Jena and Gera into Prussia, as Napoleon had done sixty years before, but the scheme was negatived by the Austrian government, which exercised the supreme command of the allies. The Bavarians did, however, advance, and made for the Eisenach-Gotha region, where the Prussian-Hanoverian struggle was in progress. Meanwhile the 8th Federal corps advanced also, but actuated probably by political motives it took the general direction of Cassel, and between the two German corps a wide gap opened, of which Vogel v. Falckenstein was not slow to take advantage. On the day of Königgrätz the Prussians moved into position to attack the Bavarians, and on the 4th of July v. Goeben won the victory of Wiesenthal (near Dermbach). The 7th corps thereupon drew back to the Franconian Saale, the 8th to ` Frankfurt, and on the 7th of July the Prussian army was massed about Fulda between them. Vogel v. Falckenstein moved forward again on the 8th, and on the 10th the Bavarians were again defeated in a series of actions around Kissingen, Waldaschach and Hammelburg. Meanwhile Prince Alexander's motley corps began its advance from Frankfurt up the Main valley to join the Bavarians, who had now retired on Schweinfurt. The army of the Main, however, had little difficulty in defeating the 8th corps at Laufach on the 13th and Aschaffenburg on the 14th of July. The Prussians occupied Frankfurt (16th). Vogel v. Falckenstein was now called to Bohemia, and v. Manteuffel was placed in command of the army of the Main for the final advance. The 7th and 8th corps now at last effected their junction about Würzburg, whither the army of the Main marched from Frankfurt to meet them. The Federals advanced in their turn, the Bavarians on the right, the 8th on the left, and the opponents met in the valley of the Tauber. More partial actions, at Hundheim (23rd), Tauber Bischofsheim (24th), Gerchsheim (25th), Helmstadt (25th) and Rossbrunn (26th) ended in the retreat of the Germans to Würzburg and beyond; the armistice (Aug. 2nd) then put an end to operations. A Prussian reserve corps under the grand duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, formed at Leipzig, had meanwhile overrun eastern Bavaria up to Nuremberg.
This campaign presents the sharpest contrast to that of Bohemia. Small armies moving freely within a large theatre of war, the occupation of hostile territory as a primary object of operations, the absence of a decision-compelling spirit on either side, the hostile political “view” over-riding the hostile “feeling”—all these conditions remind the student of those of 17th and 18th century warfare. But the improved organization, better communications and supplies, superior moral, and once again the breech-loader versus a standing target, which caused the Prussian successes, at least give us an opportunity of comparing the old and the new systems under similar conditions, and even thus the principle of the “armed nation” achieved the decision in a period of time which, for the old armies, was wholly insufficient.
The various treaties of Prague, Berlin and Vienna which followed the armistice secured the annexation by Prussia of Hanover, the Elbe duchies, the electorate of Hesse, Nassau and Frankfurt, the dissolution of the existing confederation and the creation of a new North German Confederation under the hegemony of Prussia, and the payment of war indemnities to Prussia (the Austrian share being £6,000,000). Venetia was ceded by Austria to Napoleon III. and by him to King Victor Emmanuel.
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- The Lorenz rifle carried a .57 bullet and was sighted to 1000 yds.; the needle-gun with a much lighter bullet was sighted to 400 only.