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The Austro-Prussian War or Seven Weeks' War, known in Germany as ("German War") and by a variety of other names, was fought in 1866 between the
Austrian Empire The Austrian Empire (german: Kaiserthum Oesterreich, modern spelling ') was a Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, based on a common History, historical, Society, social and cultural ...
and the
Kingdom of Prussia The Kingdom of Prussia (german: Königreich Preußen) was a German kingdom Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy * A realm ruled by: **A king, during the reign of a male monarch **A queen regnant, during the reign of a female ...
, with each also being aided by various allies within the
German Confederation The German Confederation (german: Deutscher Bund) was an association of 39 predominantly German-speaking sovereign states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as a replacement of the former Holy Roman Empire, which had ...

German Confederation
. Prussia had also allied with the
Kingdom of Italy The Kingdom of Italy ( it, Regno d'Italia) was a state that existed from 1861—when King Victor Emmanuel II of Kingdom of Sardinia, Sardinia was proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, proclaimed King of Italy—until 1946, when civil discontent l ...
, linking this conflict to the Third Independence War of
Italian unification The unification of Italy ( it, Unità d'Italia ), also known as the ''Risorgimento'' (, ; meaning "Resurgence"), was the 19th-century political and social movement that resulted in the Merger (politics), consolidation of List of historic stat ...

Italian unification
. The Austro-Prussian War was part of the wider rivalry between Austria and Prussia, and resulted in Prussian dominance over the German states. The major result of the war was a shift in power among the German states away from Austrian and towards Prussian
hegemony Hegemony (, , ) is the political, economic, and military predominance of one state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (ne ...
. It resulted in the abolition of the
German Confederation The German Confederation (german: Deutscher Bund) was an association of 39 predominantly German-speaking sovereign states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as a replacement of the former Holy Roman Empire, which had ...

German Confederation
and its partial replacement by the unification of all of the northern German states in the
North German Confederation The North German Confederation (german: Norddeutscher Bund) was the Germans, German federal state which existed from July 1867 to December 1870. The Confederation came into existence after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 over the lordship of tw ...
that excluded Austria and the other Southern German states, a . The war also resulted in the
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...
annexation of the Austrian province of Venetia.


Outbreak of war

The war erupted as a result of the dispute between Prussia and Austria over the administration of
Schleswig-Holstein Schleswig-Holstein () is the northernmost of the 16 states of Germany The Federal Republic of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , la ...

Schleswig-Holstein
, which the two of them had conquered from Denmark and agreed to jointly occupy at the end of the
Second Schleswig War The Second Schleswig War ( da, Krigen i 1864; german: Deutsch-Dänischer Krieg) also sometimes known as the Dano-Prussian War or Prusso-Danish War was the second military conflict over the Schleswig-Holstein Question File:Herzogtümer.png, Schl ...
in 1864. The crisis started on 26 January 1866, when Prussia protested the decision of the Austrian Governor of Holstein to permit the estates of the duchies to call up a united assembly, declaring the Austrian decision a breach of the principle of joint sovereignty. Austria replied on 7 February, asserting that its decision did not infringe on Prussia's rights in the duchies. In March 1866, Austria reinforced its troops along its frontier with Prussia. Prussia responded with a partial mobilization of five divisions on 28 March.
Bismarck
Bismarck
made an alliance with Italy on 8 April, committing it to the war if Prussia entered one against Austria within three months, which was an obvious incentive for Bismarck to go to war with Austria within three months to divert Austrian strength away from Prussia. Austria responded with a mobilization of its Southern Army on the Italian border on 21 April. Italy called for a general mobilization on 26 April and Austria ordered its own general mobilization the next day. Prussia's general mobilization orders were signed in steps on 3, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 12 May. When Austria brought the Schleswig-Holstein dispute before the German Diet on 1 June and also decided on 5 June to convene the Diet of Holstein on 11 June, Prussia declared that the Gastein Convention of 14 August 1865 had thereby been nullified and invaded Holstein on 9 June. When the German Diet responded by voting for a partial mobilization against Prussia on 14 June, Bismarck claimed that the German Confederation had ended. The Prussian Army invaded Hanover, Saxony and the Electorate of Hesse on 15 June. Italy declared war on Austria on 20 June.


Causes

For several centuries,
Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the of Eurasia, it shares the continental landmass of with both ...

Central Europe
was split into a few large- or medium-sized states and hundreds of tiny entities, which while ostensibly being within the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town i ...
ruled by the
Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as ...
, operated in a largely independent fashion. When an existing Emperor died, seven secular and ecclesiastical princes, each of whom ruled at least one of the states, would elect a new Emperor. Over time the Empire became smaller and by 1789 came to consist of primarily German peoples (aside from Bohemia, Moravia, the southern Netherlands and Slovenia). Aside from five years (1740–1745), the Habsburg family, whose personal territory was
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
, controlled the Emperorship from 1440 to 1806, although it became increasingly ceremonial only as Austria found itself at war at certain times with other states within the Empire, such as
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
, which in fact defeated Austria during the
War of Austrian Succession The War of the Austrian Succession () was the last Great Power conflict with the Bourbon- Habsburg dynastic conflict at its heart. It occurred from 1740 to 1748 and marked the rise of Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūs ...
to seize the state of Silesia in 1742. While
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
was traditionally considered the leader of the German states,
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
became increasingly powerful and by the late 18th century was ranked as one of the great powers of Europe.
Francis II
Francis II
's abolition of the office of Holy Roman Emperor in 1806 also deprived him of his imperial authority over most of German-speaking Europe, though little true authority remained by that time; he did, however, retain firm control of an extensive multi-ethnic empire (most of it outside the previous boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire). After 1815, the
German states The Federal Republic of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German language, German , d ...
were once again reorganized into a loose confederation: the
German Confederation The German Confederation (german: Deutscher Bund) was an association of 39 predominantly German-speaking sovereign states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as a replacement of the former Holy Roman Empire, which had ...

German Confederation
, under Austrian leadership. Prussia had been contesting Austria's supremacy in Germany since at least 1850, when a war between the two powers had nearly erupted over Prussia's leadership of the
Erfurt Union The Erfurt Union (german: Erfurter Union) was a short-lived union of German states under a federation A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, st ...
, though at that time Prussia had backed down.


Nationalism

Partly in reaction to the triumphant French nationalism of
Napoleon I Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led Napoleon Bonaparte's battle record, several successful campaigns during the French Rev ...

Napoleon I
and the organic feeling of commonality expressed during the
Romantic era Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. ...
,
German nationalism German nationalism () is an ideological notion that promotes the unity of Germans The Germans (german: Deutsche) are a Germanic peoples, Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe.. "Germans are a Germanic (or Teutonic) people that are ...
became a potent force during this period. The ultimate aim of most German nationalists was the gathering of all Germans under one state, although most accepted that the German portions of Switzerland would remain in Switzerland. Two ideas of national unity eventually came to the fore – one including and one excluding Austria.


Bismarck

There are many interpretations of
Otto von Bismarck Otto, Prince of Bismarck, Count of Bismarck-Schönhausen, Duke of Lauenburg (german: Otto Fürst von Bismarck, Graf von Bismarck-Schönhausen, Herzog zu Lauenburg ; 1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), born Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, was a c ...

Otto von Bismarck
's behaviour before the Austrian-Prussian war, which concentrate mainly on the fact that he had a master plan that resulted in this war, the North German Confederation and the unification of Germany. Bismarck maintained that he orchestrated the conflict in order to bring about the North German Confederation, the Franco-Prussian War and the eventual unification of Germany. On 22 February 1866, Count Karolyi, Austrian ambassador in
Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the List of cities in the European Union by ...

Berlin
, sent a dispatch to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Alexander Mensdorff-Pouilly. He explained to him that Prussian public opinion had become extremely sensitive about the Duchies issue and that he had no doubt that "this artificial exaggeration of the danger by public opinion formed an essential part of the calculations and actions of Count Bismarck ho consideredthe annexation of the Duchies ... a matter of life and death for his political existence nd wishedto make it appear such for Prussia too." Possible evidence can be found in Bismarck's orchestration of the Austrian alliance during the
Second Schleswig War The Second Schleswig War ( da, Krigen i 1864; german: Deutsch-Dänischer Krieg) also sometimes known as the Dano-Prussian War or Prusso-Danish War was the second military conflict over the Schleswig-Holstein Question File:Herzogtümer.png, Schl ...
against Denmark, which can be seen as his diplomatic "masterstroke". Taylor also believes that the alliance was a "test for Austria rather than a trap" and that the goal was not war with Austria, contradicting what Bismarck later gave in his memoirs as his main reason for establishing the alliance. It was in the Prussian interest to gain an alliance with Austria to defeat Denmark and settle the
issue Issue or issues may refer to: * Issue (genealogy), a legal term for a person's descendants * Issue (periodicals), a number to indicate a particular periodical * Social issue, a matter that influences individuals within a society * Environmental iss ...
of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The alliance can be regarded as an aid to Prussian expansion, rather than a provocation of war against Austria. Many historians believe that Bismarck was simply a Prussian
expansionist In expansionism, governments and states expand their territory, power, wealth or influence through economic growth Economic growth can be defined as the increase in the inflation-adjusted market value of the goods and services produced by an eco ...
, rather than a German nationalist, who sought the unification of Germany. It was at the Gastein Convention that the Austrian alliance was set up to lure Austria into war. The timing of the Prusso-Italian alliance of 8 April 1866 was perfect, because all other European powers were either bound by alliances that forbade them from entering the conflict, or had domestic problems that had priority. Britain had no stake economically or politically in war between Prussia and Austria. Russia was unlikely to enter on the side of Austria, due to ill will over Austrian support of the anti-Russian alliance during the
Crimean War The Crimean War, , was a military conflict fought from October 1853 to February 1856 in which Russian Empire, Russia lost to an alliance of Second French Empire, France, the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, ...
and Prussia had stood by Russia during the
January Uprising The January Uprising ( pl, powstanie styczniowe; lt, 1863 metų sukilimas; russian: Польское восстание) was an insurrection principally in Russian Empire, Russia's Congress Poland, Kingdom of Poland aimed at the restoration of ...

January Uprising
in Poland, signing the
Alvensleben Convention The Alvensleben Convention was a treaty between the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia, named after general Gustav von Alvensleben. It was signed in St. Petersburg on 8 February 1863 by Alvensleben and Alexander Gorchakov. The Convention ...
of February 1863 with Russia, whereas Austria had not.


France

France was also unlikely to enter on the side of Austria, because Bismarck and
Napoleon III Napoleon III (Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte; 20 April 18089 January 1873) was the first President of France The president of France, officially the President of the French Republic (french: Président de la République française), is t ...

Napoleon III
met in Biarritz and allegedly discussed whether or not France would intervene in a potential Austro-Prussian war. The details of the discussion are unknown but many historians think Bismarck was guaranteed French neutrality in the event of a war. Italy was already allied with Prussia, which meant that Austria would be fighting both with no major allies of its own. Bismarck was aware of his numerical superiority but still "he was not prepared to advise it immediately even though he gave a favourable account of the international situation". When the Prussian victory became clear, France attempted to extract territorial concessions in the Palatinate and
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a landlocked ...

Luxembourg
. In his speech to the
Reichstag is a German word generally meaning parliament, more directly translated as ''Diet (assembly), Diet of the Realm'' or ''National diet'', or more loosely as ''Imperial Diet''. It may refer to: Buildings and places is the god specific German word ...
on 2 May 1871, Bismarck said:


Military factors

Bismarck may well have been encouraged to go to war by the advantages of the Prussian army against the Austrian Empire. Taylor wrote that Bismarck was reluctant to pursue war as it "deprived him of control and left the decisions to the generals whose ability he distrusted". (The two most important personalities within the Prussian army were the War Minister
Albrecht Graf von Roon Albrecht Theodor Emil Graf von Roon (; 30 April 1803 Pleśna, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Pleushagen, Kingdom of Prussia, Prussia23 February 1879) was a Prussian soldier and statesman. As Minister of War from 1859 to 1873, Roon, along with Ot ...

Albrecht Graf von Roon
and Chief of the General Staff
Helmuth Graf von Moltke Graf Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke (; 26 October 180024 April 1891) was a Prussian Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state that originated in 1525 with Duchy of Prussia, a duc ...
.) Taylor suggested that Bismarck was hoping to force Austrian leaders into concessions in Germany, rather than provoke war. The truth may be more complicated than simply that Bismarck, who famously said that "politics is the art of the possible", initially sought war with Austria or was initially against the idea of going to war with Austria.


Rival military systems

In 1862, von Roon had implemented several army reforms that ensured that all Prussian citizens were liable to conscription. Before this date, the size of the army had been fixed by earlier laws that had not taken population growth into account, making conscription inequitable and unpopular for this reason. While some Prussian men remained in the army or the reserves until they were forty years old, about one man in three (or even more in some regions where the population had expanded greatly as a result of industrialisation) was assigned minimal service in the ''
Landwehr ''Landwehr'', or ''Landeswehr'', is a German language term used in referring to certain national army, armies, or militias found in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe. In different context it refers to large-scale, low-strength fortific ...

Landwehr
'', the home guard. Introducing universal conscription for three years increased the size of the active duty army and provided Prussia with a reserve army equal in size to that which Moltke deployed against Austria. Had France under Napoleon III attempted to intervene against the Prussians, they could have faced him with equal or superior numbers of troops. Prussian conscript service was one of continuous training and drill, in contrast to the Austrian army where some commanders routinely dismissed infantry conscripts to their homes on permanent leave soon after their induction into the army, retaining only a cadre of long-term soldiers for formal parades and routine duties. Austrian conscripts had to be trained almost from scratch when they were recalled to their units on the outbreak of war. The Prussian army was thus better trained and disciplined than the Austrian army, particularly in the infantry. While Austrian cavalry and artillery were as well-trained as their Prussian counterparts with Austria possessing two elite divisions of heavy cavalry, weapons and tactics had advanced since the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic W ...
and cavalry charges had been rendered obsolete.


Speed of mobilization

The Prussian army was locally based, organized in ''Kreise'' (military districts, lit.: circles), each containing a Korps headquarters and its component units. Most reservists lived close to their regimental depots and could be swiftly mobilized. Austrian policy was to ensure that units were stationed far from home to prevent them from taking part in separatist revolts. Conscripts on leave or reservists recalled to their units during mobilization faced a journey that might take weeks before they could report to their units, making the Austrian mobilization much slower than that of the Prussian Army.


Speed of concentration

The railway system of Prussia was more extensively developed than that within Austria. Railways made it possible to supply larger numbers of troops than hitherto and allowed the rapid movement of troops within friendly territory. The more efficient Prussian rail network allowed the Prussian army to concentrate more rapidly than the Austrians. Moltke, reviewing his plans to Roon stated, "We have the inestimable advantage of being able to carry our Field Army of 285,000 men over five railway lines and of virtually concentrating them in twenty-five days. ... Austria has only one railway line and it will take her forty-five days to assemble 200,000 men." Moltke had also said earlier, "Nothing could be more welcome to us than to have now the war that we must have." The Austrian army under
Ludwig von Benedek Ludwig August Ritter von Benedek (14 July 1804 – 27 April 1881), also known as Lajos Benedek, was an Austrian general (Feldzeugmeister ''Feldzeugmeister'' was a historical military rank in some German and the Austro-Hungarian Army, Austro-Hun ...
in
Bohemia Bohemia ( ; cs, Čechy ; ; hsb, Čěska; szl, Czechy) is the westernmost and largest historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographical Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, ...

Bohemia
(the present-day
Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to ...
) might previously have been expected to enjoy the advantage of the "central position", by being able to concentrate on successive attacking armies strung out along the frontier, but the quicker Prussian concentration nullified this advantage. By the time the Austrians were fully assembled, they would be unable to concentrate against one Prussian army without having the other two instantly attack their flank and rear, threatening their lines of communication.


Armaments and tactics

Prussian infantry were equipped with the
Dreyse needle gun The Dreyse needle-gun was a ground-breaking 19th-century military breechloading rifle. The gun, which was the first breech-loading rifle to use a bolt action to open and close the chamber, was the main infantry weapon of the Kingdom of Prussia, ...

Dreyse needle gun
, a bolt-action rifle which could be fired faster than the
muzzle-loading A muzzleloader is any firearm A firearm is any type of gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also project pressurized liquid (e.g. water guns/ cannon ...

muzzle-loading
Lorenz rifles of the Austrian army. In the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, French troops took advantage of poorly trained enemies who didn't readjust their gunsights as they got closer -- thus firing too high at close range. By rapidly closing the range, French troops came to close quarters with an advantage over the Austrian infantry. After the war, the Austrians adopted the same methods, which they termed the ("shock tactics"). Although they had some warnings of the Prussian weapon, they ignored these and retained . The Austrian artillery had breech-loading rifled guns which were superior to the Prussian muzzle-loading smooth bore cannon. New
Krupp The Krupp family (see pronunciation Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation w ...
breech-loading cannons were being slowly introduced by the Prussians, but not in numbers large enough to influence outcomes. Despite the Austrian advantage in the quality of their artillery equipment, other limitations prevented these from being effectively used.


Economic factors

In 1866, the Prussian economy was rapidly growing, partly as a result of the ''
Zollverein The ''Zollverein'' (), or German Customs Union, was a coalition of German states formed to manage tariff A tariff is a tax imposed by a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, gen ...

Zollverein
'', which gave Prussia an advantage in the war. Prussia could equip its armies with
breech-loading rifles A breechloader is a firearm in which the user loads the ammunition (cartridge (firearms), cartridge or shell (projectile), shell) via the rear (breech) end of its gun barrel, barrel, as opposed to a muzzleloader, which loads ammunition via the fro ...
and later with new Krupp breech-loading
artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunition, munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications dur ...

artillery
but the Austrian economy was suffering from the effects of the
Hungarian Revolution of 1848Hungarian may refer to: * Hungary Hungary ( hu, Magyarország ) is a country in Central Europe. It borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Romania to the east and southeast, Serbia to the south, Croatia and Slovenia to the so ...
and the
Second Italian War of Independence The second (symbol: s, abbreviation: sec) is the base unit of time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession fr ...
. Austria had only one bank, the
Creditanstalt Creditanstalt (sometimes Credit-Anstalt, abbreviated as CA) was an Austria Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a landlocked country in the southern part of Central Europe, located on the Eastern Alps. It is composed of ni ...

Creditanstalt
and the state was heavily in debt. Historian
Christopher Clark Sir Christopher Munro Clark (born 14 March 1960) is an Australian historian living in England and Germany. He is the twenty-second Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge. In 2015 he was knighted for his services to Angl ...

Christopher Clark
wrote that there is little to suggest that Prussia had an overwhelming economic and industrial advantage over Austria and wrote that a larger portion of the Prussian population was engaged in agriculture than in the Austrian population and that Austrian industry could produce the most sophisticated weapons in the war (rifled artillery). The Austro-Prussian War ended quickly and was fought mainly with existing weapons and munitions, which reduced the influence of economic and industrial power relative to politics and military culture.


Alliances

Before the war started both the Austrian and Prussian governments sought to rally allies in Germany. On 15 June Bismarck offered territorial compensation in the
Grand Duchy of Hesse The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine (german: Großherzogtum Hessen und bei Rhein) was a grand duchy in western Germany that existed from 1806 (the period of German mediatization) to the end of the German Empire in 1918. The grand duchy origi ...

Grand Duchy of Hesse
to the
Electorate of Hesse The Electorate of Hesse (german: Kurfürstentum Hessen), also known as Hesse-Kassel or Kurhessen, was a landgraviate whose prince was given the right to elect the Emperor by Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) w ...

Electorate of Hesse
, if Elector Frederick William were to ally with Prussia. The proposition grievously offended Frederick William's "legitimist sensibilities" and the monarch joined the Austrians, despite the Hessian
Landtag A Landtag (State Diet Diet may refer to: Food * Diet (nutrition) In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism. The word diet often implies the use of specific intake of nutrition for #Health, health or #Weigh ...

Landtag
voting for neutrality.Schmitt, Hans A. "Prussia's Last Fling: The Annexation of Hanover, Hesse, Frankfurt, and Nassau, June 15 -October 8, 1866." ''Central European History'' 8, No. 4 (1975), pp. 316-347. King
George V of Hanover en, George Frederick Alexander Charles Ernest Augustus , house = Hanover Hanover (; german: Hannover ; nds, Hannober) is the capital and largest city of the German state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literat ...
during the spring of 1866 was contacted by Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph about establishing a coalition against the Prussians, however his success took some time. The Hanoverian monarch concluded that his kingdom would fall if it were to fight against the Prussian armies. Most of the southern German states sided with Austria against Prussia. Those that sided with Austria included the Kingdoms of
Bavaria Bavaria (; German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language ...
and
Württemberg Württemberg ( ; ) is a historical German territory roughly corresponding to the cultural and linguistic region of Swabia upThe coat of arms of Baden-Württemberg: ''Or, three lions passant sable'', the arms of the Duchy of Swabia, in origi ...
. Smaller middle states such as
Baden__notoc__ Baden (; ) is a historical territory in South Germany Southern Germany () as a region has no exact boundary but is generally taken to include the areas in which Upper German dialects are spoken. This corresponds roughly to the hi ...
,
Hesse-Kassel The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel (german: Landgrafschaft Hessen-Kassel), spelled Hesse-Cassel during its entire existence, was a state in the Holy Roman Empire that was imperial immediacy, directly subject to the Emperor. The state was created in ...

Hesse-Kassel
(or Hesse-Cassel),
Hesse-Darmstadt The Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt (german: Landgrafschaft Hessen-Darmstadt) was a State State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The S ...

Hesse-Darmstadt
, and also joined with Austria. Many of the German princes allied with the Habsburgs principally out of a desire to keep their thrones. Most of the northern German states joined Prussia, in particular Oldenburg,
Mecklenburg-Schwerin The Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was a duchy A duchy is a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of p ...
,
Mecklenburg-Strelitz The Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a duchy A duchy is a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of ...
, and
Brunswick Brunswick is the historical English name for the German city of Braunschweig (Low German: ''Brunswiek'', Braunschweig dialect: ''Bronswiek''). Brunswick may also refer to: Places and other topographs Australia * Brunswick, Victoria, a suburb of ...
. The
Kingdom of Italy The Kingdom of Italy ( it, Regno d'Italia) was a state that existed from 1861—when King Victor Emmanuel II of Kingdom of Sardinia, Sardinia was proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, proclaimed King of Italy—until 1946, when civil discontent l ...
participated in the war with Prussia, because Austria held Venetia and other smaller territories wanted by Italy to further the process of
Italian unification The unification of Italy ( it, Unità d'Italia ), also known as the ''Risorgimento'' (, ; meaning "Resurgence"), was the 19th-century political and social movement that resulted in the Merger (politics), consolidation of List of historic stat ...

Italian unification
. In return for Italian aid against Austria, Bismarck agreed not to make a separate peace until Italy had obtained Venetia. Notably, the other foreign powers abstained from this war. Emperor
Napoleon III Napoleon III (Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte; 20 April 18089 January 1873) was the first President of France The president of France, officially the President of the French Republic (french: Président de la République française), is t ...

Napoleon III
, who expected a Prussian defeat, chose to remain out of the war to strengthen his negotiating position for territory along the
Rhine ), Surselva Surselva Region is one of the eleven administrative districts Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many s ...

Rhine
, while the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, succeeding the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad that ended the Great Northern War. ...
still bore a grudge against Austria from the
Crimean War The Crimean War, , was a military conflict fought from October 1853 to February 1856 in which Russian Empire, Russia lost to an alliance of Second French Empire, France, the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, ...
.


Course of the war

The first war between two major continental powers in seven years, it used many of the same technologies as the
Second Italian War of Independence The second (symbol: s, abbreviation: sec) is the base unit of time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession fr ...
, including
railways Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicles include wagons, bicycles, motor veh ...

railways
to concentrate troops during mobilization and telegraphs to enhance long-distance communication. The Prussian Army used von Dreyse's breech-loading
needle gun A needle gun (or needle rifle for varieties with rifling In firearm A firearm is any type of gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also proje ...

needle gun
, which could be rapidly loaded while the soldier was seeking cover on the ground, whereas the Austrian muzzle-loading rifles could only be loaded slowly, and generally from a standing position. The main campaign of the war occurred in
Bohemia Bohemia ( ; cs, Čechy ; ; hsb, Čěska; szl, Czechy) is the westernmost and largest historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographical Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, ...

Bohemia
. Prussian Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke had planned meticulously for the war. He rapidly mobilized the Prussian army and advanced across the border into Saxony and Bohemia, where the Austrian army was concentrating for an invasion of
Silesia Silesia (, also , ) is a historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographical Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), o ...

Silesia
. There, the Prussian armies, led nominally by King William I, converged, and the two sides met at the
Battle of Königgrätz The Battle of Königgrätz (or Sadowa) was the decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian War in which the Kingdom of Prussia defeated the Austrian Empire. It took place on July 3, 1866, near the Bohemia, Bohemian towns of Königgrätz, (now Hradec ...
(Hradec Králové) on 3 July. The Prussian Elbe Army advanced on the Austrian left wing, and the First Army on the center, prematurely; they risked being counter-flanked on their own left. Victory therefore depended on the timely arrival of the Second Army on the left wing. This was achieved through the brilliant work of its Chief of Staff,
Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal Karl Konstantin Albrecht Leonhard (Leonhardt) Graf von Blumenthal (30 July 1810 – 21 December 1900) was a Prussian Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state that originated in 1525 ...
. Superior Prussian organization and élan decided the battle against Austrian numerical superiority, and the victory was near total, with Austrian battle deaths nearly seven times the Prussian figure. An armistice between Prussia and Austria came into effect at noon on 22 July. A preliminary peace was signed on 26 July at
Nikolsburg Mikulov (; german: Nikolsburg; yi, ניקאלשבורג, ''Nikolshburg'') is a town in Břeclav District in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic. It has about 7,500 inhabitants. The historic centre of Mikulov is well preserved and hi ...

Nikolsburg
. Except for Saxony, the other German states allied to Austria played little role in the main campaign. Hanover's army defeated Prussia at the
Second Battle of Langensalza left, Regimental movement at Langensalza, 1866., 250px The Battle of Langensalza was fought on 27 June 1866, during the Austro-Prussian War The Austro-Prussian War or Seven Weeks' War, known in Germany as ("German War") and by a variety of ...
on 27 June 1866, but, within a few days, they were forced to surrender by superior numbers. Prussian armies fought against Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and the Hessian states on the
river Main The Main () is the longest tributary A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem r ...
, reaching
Nuremberg Nuremberg ( ; german: link=no, Nürnberg ; in the local East Franconian dialect: ''Nämberch'' ) is the second-largest city of the Germany, German States of Germany, state of Bavaria after its capital Munich, and its 518,370 (2019) inhabitants ...

Nuremberg
and
Frankfurt Frankfurt, officially Frankfurt am Main (; Hessian dialects, Hessian: , "Franks, Frank ford (crossing), ford on the Main (river), Main"; french: Francfort-sur-le-Main), is the most populous city in the States of Germany, German state of Hess ...

Frankfurt
. The Bavarian fortress of
Würzburg Würzburg (; Main-Franconian Main-Franconian (german: Mainfränkisch) is group of Upper German dialects being part of the East Franconian German, East Franconian group. The name is derived from the river Main (river), Main which meets the rive ...

Würzburg
was shelled by Prussian artillery, but the garrison defended its position until armistice day. The Austrians were more successful in their war with Italy, defeating the Italians on land at the Battle of Custoza (24 June), and on sea at the Battle of Lissa (20 July). However, Italy's "
Hunters of the Alps 250px, A ''Garibaldino'' of the Hunters of the Alps, ca. 1866 The Hunters of the Alps ( it, Cacciatori delle Alpi) were a special military corps created by Giuseppe Garibaldi in Cuneo on 20 February 1859 to help the regular Kingdom of Sardinia, Sa ...
" led by
Garibaldi Giuseppe Maria Garibaldi ( , ; 4 July 1807 – 2 June 1882) was an Italian general, patriot and republican. He contributed to the Italian unification Italian unification ( it, Unità d'Italia ), also known as the Risorgimento (, ; meaning " ...

Garibaldi
defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Bezzecca on 21 July, conquered the lower part of
Trentino Trentino ( lld, Trentin) officially the Autonomous Province of Trento, is an autonomous The federal subject The federal subjects of Russia, also referred to as the subjects of the Russian Federation (russian: субъекты Рос ...
, and moved towards
Trento Trento ( or ; Ladin and lmo, Trent; german: Trient ; cim, Tria; ), also anglicized as Trent, is a city on the Adige River The Adige (; german: Etsch ; vec, Àdexe ; rm, ; lld, Adesc; la, Athesis; grc, Ἄθεσις, Áthesis, or , '' ...

Trento
. The Prussian peace with Austria forced the Italian government to seek an armistice with Austria on 12 August. According to the Treaty of Vienna, signed on 12 October, Austria ceded
Veneto it, Veneto (man) it, Veneta (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = , demographics1_footnotes = , demographics1_title1 = , demographics1_info1 = ...

Veneto
to France, which, in turn, ceded it to Italy.


Major battles

* 24 June, Battle of Custoza: Austrian army defeats Italian army. * 27 June,
Battle of Trautenau The Battle of Trautenau (german: Schlacht bei Trautenau) or Battle of Trutnov was fought on 27 June 1866, during the Austro-Prussian War. It was the only battle of the war that ended in an Austrian Empire, Austrian victory over the Kingdom of Pru ...
(Trutnov): Austrians check Prussian advance but with heavy losses. * 27 June, Battle of Langensalza: Hanover's army defeats Prussia's. However, Hanover surrenders two days later. * 29 June,
Battle of Gitschin The Battle of Gitschin or Jičín (german: Schlacht bei Gitschin) was a battle of the Austro-Prussian War on 29 June 1866, ending with a Kingdom of Prussia, Prussian victory over the Austrian Empire, Austrian forces. There is a memorial there to ...
(Jičín): Prussians defeat Austrians. * 3 July,
Battle of Königgrätz The Battle of Königgrätz (or Sadowa) was the decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian War in which the Kingdom of Prussia defeated the Austrian Empire. It took place on July 3, 1866, near the Bohemia, Bohemian towns of Königgrätz, (now Hradec ...
(Sadová): decisive Prussian victory against Austrians. * 10 July,
Battle of Kissingen The Battle of Kissingen was a battle between Bavaria Bavaria (; German language, German and Bavarian language, Bavarian: ''Bayern'' ), officially the Free State of Bavaria (German and Bavarian: ''Freistaat Bayern''; ), is a Landlocked country, ...
: Prussians defeat the Bavarians (7th Army Corps of the
German Confederation The German Confederation (german: Deutscher Bund) was an association of 39 predominantly German-speaking sovereign states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as a replacement of the former Holy Roman Empire, which had ...

German Confederation
) * 20 July, Battle of Lissa (Vis): the Austrian fleet decisively defeats the Italian one. * 21 July, Battle of Bezzecca:
Giuseppe Garibaldi Giuseppe Maria Garibaldi ( , ;In his native Ligurian language, he is known as ''Gioxeppe Gaibado. 4 July 1807 – 2 June 1882) was an Italian general, patriot, revolutionary, and republican. He contributed to the Italian unification The ...

Giuseppe Garibaldi
's "
Hunters of the Alps 250px, A ''Garibaldino'' of the Hunters of the Alps, ca. 1866 The Hunters of the Alps ( it, Cacciatori delle Alpi) were a special military corps created by Giuseppe Garibaldi in Cuneo on 20 February 1859 to help the regular Kingdom of Sardinia, Sa ...
" defeat an Austrian army. * 22 July (last day of the war), Battle of Lamacs (Lamač): Austrians defend Bratislava against Prussian army. * 24 July,
Battle of Tauberbischofsheim The Battle of Tauberbischofsheim was an engagement of the Austro-Prussian War The Austro-Prussian War or Seven Weeks' War, known in Germany as ("German War") and by a variety of other names, was fought in 1866 between the Austrian Empire and ...
, the Federal 8th Corps (Württemberg, Baden, Hesse and Nassau) is defeated by Prussia and northern Württemberg is occupied.


Aftermath and consequences

In order to prevent "unnecessary bitterness of feeling or desire for revenge" and forestall intervention by France or Russia, Bismarck pushed King William I, German Emperor, William I of Prussia to make peace with the Austrians rapidly, rather than continue the war in hopes of further gains. William had "planned to install both the crown prince of Hanover and the nephew of the elector of Hesse as titular grand dukes in small territorial residuals of their dynastic inheritance" due to opposition in the government cabinet, including Crown Prince Frederick III, German Emperor, Frederick to the annexation of several German states. The Austrians accepted mediation from France's
Napoleon III Napoleon III (Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte; 20 April 18089 January 1873) was the first President of France The president of France, officially the President of the French Republic (french: Président de la République française), is t ...

Napoleon III
. The Peace of Prague (1866), Peace of Prague on 23 August 1866 resulted in the dissolution of the
German Confederation The German Confederation (german: Deutscher Bund) was an association of 39 predominantly German-speaking sovereign states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as a replacement of the former Holy Roman Empire, which had ...

German Confederation
, Prussian annexation of many of Austria’s former allies, and the permanent exclusion of Austria from German affairs. This left Prussia free to form the
North German Confederation The North German Confederation (german: Norddeutscher Bund) was the Germans, German federal state which existed from July 1867 to December 1870. The Confederation came into existence after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 over the lordship of tw ...
the next year, incorporating all the German states north of the Main (river), Main River. Prussia chose not to seek Austrian territory for itself, and this made it possible for Prussia and Austria to ally in the future, since Austria felt threatened more by Italian and Pan-Slavism, Pan-Slavic irredentism than by Prussia. The war left Prussia dominant in German politics (since Austria was now excluded from Germany and no longer the top German power), and German nationalism would encourage the remaining independent states to ally with Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, and then to accede to the crowning of King William of Prussia as German Empire, German Emperor in 1871. The united German Empire, German states would become one of the most influential of all the European powers.


For the defeated parties

In addition to war reparations, the following territorial changes took place: * Austria: Surrendered the province of Venetia (region), Venetia to France, but then
Napoleon III Napoleon III (Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte; 20 April 18089 January 1873) was the first President of France The president of France, officially the President of the French Republic (french: Président de la République française), is t ...

Napoleon III
handed it to Italy as agreed in a secret treaty with Prussia. Austria then lost all official influence over member states of the former German Confederation. Austria’s defeat was a telling blow to Habsburg rule; the Empire was transformed via the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 into the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in the following year. Additionally Austria was also excluded from Germany. * Schleswig and Holstein: Became the Prussian Schleswig-Holstein Province, Province of Schleswig-Holstein. * Hanover: Annexed by Prussia, became the Province of Hanover. * Hesse-Darmstadt: Surrendered to Prussia the small territory it had acquired earlier in 1866 on the extinction of the ruling house of Hesse-Homburg. The northern half of the remaining land joined the
North German Confederation The North German Confederation (german: Norddeutscher Bund) was the Germans, German federal state which existed from July 1867 to December 1870. The Confederation came into existence after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 over the lordship of tw ...
. * Nassau, Hesse-Kassel, Frankfurt: Annexed by Prussia. Combined with the territory surrendered by Hesse-Darmstadt to form the new Hesse-Nassau, Province of Hesse-Nassau. * Saxony, Saxe-Meiningen, Reuss-Greiz, Schaumburg-Lippe: Spared from annexation but joined the
North German Confederation The North German Confederation (german: Norddeutscher Bund) was the Germans, German federal state which existed from July 1867 to December 1870. The Confederation came into existence after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 over the lordship of tw ...
in the following year.


For the neutral parties and Liechtenstein

The war meant the end of the German Confederation. Those states who remained neutral or passive during the conflict took different actions after the Prague treaty: * Liechtenstein: Became an independent state and declared permanent neutrality, while maintaining close political ties with Austria. Accused by Bismarck of having manipulated the Confederation Diet vote, the Principality had sent 80 men out on the Imperial side but did not engage in any fighting. They returned from the Third Italian War of Independence with 81 men, with an Austrian liaison officer joining the contingent on the way home. * Limburg and Luxembourg: The Treaty of London (1867) declared both of these states to be part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Limburg became the Dutch province of Limburg (Netherlands), Limburg. Luxembourg was guaranteed independence and neutrality from its three surrounding neighbors (Belgium, France, and Prussia), but it rejoined the German customs union, the Zollverein, and remained a member until its dissolution in 1919. * Reuss-Schleiz, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt: Joined the North German Confederation.


Austrian desire for revenge

The Austrian Chancellor Count Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust was "impatient to take his revenge on Bismarck for Battle of Königgrätz, Sadowa". As a preliminary step, the with Hungary was "rapidly concluded". Beust "persuaded Francis Joseph to accept Hungarians, Magyar demands which he had until then rejected", but Austrian plans fell short of French hopes (e.g. Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen proposed a plan which required the French army to fight alone for six weeks in order to allow Austrian mobilisation). Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II and the Italian government wanted to join this potential alliance, but Italian public opinion was bitterly opposed so long as Napoleon III kept a French garrison in Rome protecting Pope Pius IX, thereby denying Italy the possession of its capital (Rome had been declared capital of Italy in March 1861, when the first Italian Parliament had met in Turin). Napoleon III was not strictly opposed to this (in response to a French minister of State's declaration that Italy would never lay its hands on Rome, the Emperor had commented "You know, in politics, one should never say 'never) and had made various proposals for resolving the Roman Question, but Pius IX rejected them all. Despite his support for Italian unification, Napoleon could not press the issue for fear of angering Catholics in France. Raffaele de Cesare, an Italian journalist, political scientist, and author, noted that: Another reason that Beust's supposedly desired ''revanche'' against Prussia did not materialize is seen in the fact that, in 1870, the Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Andrássy was "vigorously opposed".


See also

* Wars and battles involving Prussia


Citations


General sources

* * Barry, Quintin. ''Road to Koniggratz: Helmuth von Moltke and the Austro-Prussian War 1866'' (2010
excerpt and text search
* Bassett-Powell, Bruce. ''Armies of Bismarck's Wars: Prussian 1860-67'' (2013) , Publisher=Casemat

* Bond, Brian. "The Austro-Prussian War, 1866", ''History Today'' (1966) 16#8, pp. 538–546. * * * Hozier, H. M. ''The Seven Weeks' War: the Austro-Prussian Conflict of 1866'' (2012) * * * A. J. P. Taylor, Taylor, A. J. P. ''The Habsburg Monarchy 1809–1918'' (2nd ed. 1948). * A. J. P. Taylor, Taylor, A. J. P. ''Bismarck: the Man and Statesman'', 1955. * Showalter, Dennis E. ''The Wars of German Unification'' (2004) * *


External links


Further information about the war
{{Authority control Austro-Prussian War, 1866 in Germany 1866 in Prussia 1866 in the Austrian Empire Austria–Prussia relations, War Conflicts in 1866 History of Schleswig-Holstein Wars involving Baden Wars involving Bavaria Wars involving Hesse-Kassel Wars involving Italy Wars involving Liechtenstein Wars involving Saxony Wars involving Waldeck Wars involving Württemberg