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Strategy & Tactics Issue #275 - Magazine Only



 
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The Battle of Koeniggraetz: Austria vs. Prussia, 1866

Germany was in 1866 little more than a term applied to a vaguely-defined area of central Europe, home to more than three dozen separate political entities. By far the most important of them were Austria and Prussia. Hapsburg Austria had long been the more powerful of the two, heir to an empire born in the Middle Ages. That power was fading, largely owing to the patchwork nature of the empire. Hohenzollern Prussia, on the other hand, was young and vibrant with ambition to match.

A crisis erupted concerning the fate of Schleswig and Holstein, two German duchies wrested from Denmark by the Federal Army. Austria and Prussia, which had done most of the fighting, were awarded temporary joint rule of the provinces. Disagreement over the apportionment of that rule brought the two into new conflict. Austria bristled once again but, rather than backing down, Prussia deliberately hurled barbs and goads.

In April 1866 the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph called up his army and appealed to the Bund for backing. It appeared he would need the help: only a few minor northern German princelings declared support for Prussia, but far to the south the new nation of Italy was expected to take advantage of Austria’s distraction to seize Vienna’s holdings on that peninsula. Fortunately for Austria, Prussia’s antagonism hadn’t gone unnoticed by Bund members: most of the larger states – Saxony, Hannover, Bavaria, Baden, Wuerttemburg and Hesse – sided with Franz Joseph.


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