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The background of the war goes back to the First European War where Prussia and Austria were thoroughly humiliated, and the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine brought into play a new and powerful enemy for both of them. As Prussia and Austria built up a new military in the decades that followed the First European War, the Confederation of the Rhine became more and more centralized in the terms of military. The Confederated Rhineland Army had been established in 1838 to create a single army for Confederation, and had been supported and built by the French Empire. The clear military build-ups in Germany began to increase political tensions between the neighboring powers.
The Confederation then began to take step after step towards centralization, establishing central banks, taxation ministries, increased trades, and eventually pushed for a centralized federal government. The French Emperor, Napoleon III, gave up the French Emperor's position as Protector of the Confederation and handed power to the title of the Chief Minister of the Confederation to, then Prince-Primate of the Confederation, and King of Saxony, Frederick Augustus II of Saxony. As the new Chief Minister, Frederick built upon the the existing army, expanding the role of cavalry within it, and establishing a new system of conscription across the Confederation, and expanding its role as a military machine capable of offense as well as defense, something that seems threatening to both Prussia and Austria.
The new Rhineland form of government was heavily supported by the Marseilles Pact, especially France, who found it useful now that they didn't have to keep soldiers inside the area to defend it. Their push for a central government then began to take a more serious push as John I of Saxony, Frederick's son, announced the creation of a national assembly for the Confederation government, which would be called the Reichstag (Imperial Diet). The elections for said government would be done in April 1857, and would result in a massive turnouts and resulted in a heavily conservative parliament, something Frederick highly approved of. And using this new conservative parliament, Frederick passed a new constitution, which separated the power of government between the Executive Prince-Primate, Legislative Reichstag, and a new federal judicial branch, the Supreme Constitutional Court, which would be brought into creation when its members were selected and approved by the government in 1858. And following this new constitution, would come a new series of military laws, outlining the federal structure of the national army, along with the beginning of a navy, to be built at Lübeck.
Meanwhile, in the Austrian Empire, racial tensions grew between the ethnically-German Austrians and the Hungarians, who wanted independence from the Habsburg's rule. The Emperor, Ferdinand I, was extremely oppressive of the Hungarians, who knew if Austria were to go to war with the Confederation, it would be their time to strike. Ferdinand prepared his army for war, albeit with little reason to as of yet, he only prepared them for securing the border, making sure that if war were to come, Austria would be ready. But as Austria became torn up because its internal problems, external problems began to plague her sole, land-connected ally, the Kingdom of Prussia.
In 1861, Wilhelm I was made King of Prussia, and he made a promise of revenge against the Confederation, he came to power in a time of trouble, as the rapidly arming Confederation proved a problem to the east, and the growth of the power within the country of Poland. However, in the public eye, Poland was a nation that could do nothing to raise their spirits, only defeating their German nemesis, the Confederation of the Rhine, would bring around public opinion. Like Austria, Wilhelm prepared his country for a coming war, as tensions rose between the two sides, and war seemed inevitable, so the Prussians began to prepare their massive army. When Prussia began to seem up in hopes as its economy was on the rise, Wilhelm declared war on the Confederation, and three days later, so did Austria.
Prussian CampaignThe Prussian Army moved first, moving 40,000 men to attack the city of Madgeburg, and 50,000 to attack the city Dessau on June 20, 1861. The cities, however, were well defended by about 20,000 soldiers each, but eventually fell to superior firepower. The Prussians first phase of their operation was to cross the Elbe River, which had been achieved, but Confederation moved their Army of the Elbe into play, and the Prussians were given a fight for their lives at Halle and Braunschweig. There, two separate forces of 50,000 men marched in superior speed to the Prussians, who still had to build-up their supply lines, and pushed them back to the edge of the Elbe River by October 12. But the Prussians soon proved themselves not the ones to give up and counterattack on October 28, bringing the Army of the Elbe to the breaking point of disaster.
The Prussians counterattack had stopped by March of 1862, but had already reached the Main and Weser River. Most of southern Hannover had been taken by the advancing Prussian, and Westphalia had suffered deep losses of land. But the Confederation moved up the renewed Army of the Elbe, numbering at around 90,000 soldiers,and moved in on the Prussian's main weak point, their center. The Prussians had advanced deeply in two pincers, but they left their center, and their homeland, undefended. On June 1, the Second Battle of Magdeburg results in a major Confederation victory where 50,000 Confederation soldiers defeated the 11,000 Prussians left to defend the city. From there, the Prussians on the advance were ordered back to their homeland, and were followed all the way back by the Confederation's forces. The Prussian's final units crossed the Elbe on November 17, 1862, but were still pursued by the advancing Confederation army.
On July 27, 1861, the Austrian Army fought their own division of the Army of the Elbe, already overextended from the fight with Prussia. The Austrians were easily able to take much of Saxony with their advance, but were stagnated when they attacked into the west. Their they met a fierce resistance where the ultimate result was a stalemate of the Austrian's advance. The Austrians had to deal with similar threats from the Confederation as the Prussians did, they had to build up supply lines deep in hostile territory.
But as the Prussians were able to advance in late 1861, the Austrians were also able, until they reached the city of Erfurt on April 3, where 221,000 Confederation soldiers, gathered from forces in the west, attacked the Austrian force of 184,000, forcing an embarrassing defeat. The Austrians had been forced into a deep pocket near the city, but were unsuccessful in a breakout attempt until a relief force finally broke through, but they were undermanned, and unable to attack. The Austrians were now put into a line of retreat, where they were constantly pursued by the Confederation forces until reaching the Austrians border on August 17, 1862.
The Confederation Army had recaptured a wide series of cities by this point, and gathered an army of 125,000 soldiers to fight the Austrians in their homeland.
Confederation's Invasion and Stalemate
The Confederation Army now numbered at around 500,000 soldiers, and was divided into two major armies, the 125,000 Army of Bohemia, planning to move into Austria, the 150,000 Army of the Elbe, reformed to march into Prussia, and the remaining 225,000 were reserves. The Confederation Army in Prussia marched across the Elbe River into Prussia on December 23, 1862, where they then quickly began to march against the Prussian capital, Berlin. But along the way they met multiple smaller Prussian forces waiting for them at every point, but with the Confederation's overwhelming numbers, Prussian forces had no choice but to retreat. And on January 31, 1863 Confederation forces took Postdam, but failed when they tried to take Berlin and Spandau.
Meanwhile, on October 17, 1862, the Army of Bohemia marched from Saxony and Bavaria to take the Sudetenland from Austria, a move they were sure would bring the Austrians to the peace table. But they met similar resistance from Austrian forces, but regardless, captured Karlsbad on November 1. They quickly resumed their advance, as the Austrian forces continued a defensive strategy, but eventually their advance also stagnated. With the advance on both fronts stopped, the war entered a deep stalemate, with neither side making any major gains or losses.
Finally, seeing the war was going nowhere, France stepped in, and demanded peace between the warring nations. The two sides of the conflict agreed to sign a peace treaty to end the war, resulting in the Frankfurt Convention of 1863.
Treaty of Frankfurt and the Hungarian Revolution
The Treaty of Frankfurt was signed on September 18, 1863 by the three warring powers, in the halls of Saint Bartholomew's Cathedral. Where the Sudetenland was transferred from Austrian control to the Confederated Sudetenland Territory, and some small parts of Prussia that were occupied by the Confederation forces were transferred to the Confederation.
But the biggest after effect was the clear loss of the war to what seemed an inferior enemy and enemy army proved to much for the Hungarians, who mostly believed it was too much proof of the government's weakness, revolted against the Austrian government. The Russians tried to intervene, but Russia itself was also too pressed with civil strife to be allowed by its generals. As a result of this, Ferdinand I of Austria abdicated the throne and was succeeded by his nephew, Francis Joseph I.
The Hungarians revolted mainly in the southeast and center of the country, and by May 1864, the Kingdom of Hungary was re-established officially with the capture of Budapest. With the increasing violence of the revolt, Napoleon III authorized the French Army to intervene in Austria, and in July of 1864, the Hungarian revolt ended with the re-creation of the Kingdom of Hungary out of the land mainly occupied by the Hungarian people. The land toll of the war had proven far worse than anything that could be imagined by a treaty.