War of Unification in Northern Germany

May 1, 1872


August 3, 1872


Northern Germany


Prussian Victory

Major battles:

Battle of the Rhine, Battle of Stuttgart, Battle of Hesse, Battle of Frankfurt


Prussia, Saxony, French Empire

German Confederation


Kaiser Ferdinand Vetter, Laurenz Börngen, Elmar Heisenberg

Thaddäus Alder, Wilfried Fischbach


38,000 Infantry, 200 Cannons, 2 Commanders

12,000 Infantry, 180 Cannons, 1 Commander

Casualties and Losses

2,209 Dead, 8,933 Wounded, 0 Captured

5,180 Dead, 218 Wounded, 7,651 Captured, Surrendered or Defected


The War of Unification in Northern Germany was a three year long conflict between the Kingdom of Prussia (Das Königreich Preußen) and its dependent territory of Saxony, and the German Confederation. The war began after several western German kingdoms formed together into a single nation, to which Prussia was heavily opposed. German troops were told to stand down by Prussian Kaiser Ferdinand Vetter, but refused, pushing the war into several bloody conflicts.


Battle of the Rhine

The battle of the Rhine was the first major combat situation during the North German war, as well as the one with the fewest casualties. Confederate German troops suffered a total of 118 deaths while Prussia took as little as 10.

The German army was unprepared for any form of attack so soon after its initial formation, and was forced to retreat after just about half an hour of fighting. Conditions were unfavorable for the Germans as it was difficult to retreat due to the boggy Rhineland soil.

PrussianCavalry zpsc2f3059b

A German cavalryman prepares to attack a defending French soldier.

Battle of Frankfurt

Frankfurt was the German Confederation's capitol during its short four year history. Prussian troops marched into the city after the confederate army refused to surrender following the battle of the Rhine. About half of Frankfurt was burned to the ground as Prussian troops led by commander Laurenz Börngen attacked factories and arsenals. Frankfurt was a crushing defeat for Germany, as the total casualties numbered upwards of 1,500 deaths.

Battle of Hesse

The third major battle during the war was that which took place in Bergstraße, Hesse. This could be considered one of Germany's only victories during the war, as Prussian troops were forced to retreat to the neighboring city of Zwingenberg. Prussian advance was only halted temporarily, and continued south towards Baden shortly after.

Battle of Stuttgart

This was the decisive final battle in the war of unification. More than three quarters of all involved confederate troops surrendered to the empire, and about 80 percent of all Prisoners Of War were executed for what the Prussian Kaiser stated was "The War crime of conspiring against Prussia and what it [stood] for".

Fighting at Stuttgart lasted upwards of a full month and a half. German forced had entrenched themselves, making it difficult for Prusso-Saxon soldiers to engage. Little to the knowledge of confederacy commander Wilfried Fischbach, Prussian generals had called for the assistance of the French empire in exchange for any conquered land southwest of Bergstraße. Frankish forces marched for several days from a military encampment in the French city of Strasbourg, to corner the Germans against the Austro-Prussian border from the west. Germany officially surrendered by the end of this battle, giving up half of its territory to France and the other half to Prussia.


The War in Northern Germany was a definitive victory for the Prussian Triple Alliance, with minimal casualties on the allied side. The closing of the war forever changed French and Prussian borders. (Saxony integrated afterwards as a permanent addition to Prussia rather than a dependent territory). Pro-German revolutionaries argued against the Kaiser Vetter staying in power, using his poor human rights records and orders to execute thousands of Germans as evidence justifying his removal from crown.

Vetter was later ordered to be hanged just months after the war ended, but escaped to France, where he was kindly welcomed and never again found by Prussian authorities.

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