The Seven Weeks War, also known as the Austro-Prussian war, was a brief struggle between two rising European powers. On June 14, 1866 Austria and Prussia engaged each other in battle. Prussia received support from only a few small north German states in the country of Italy. Austria’s allies Saxony, Hanover, the Hesses, Bavaria, Baden, and Wurttemberg.
This war was deliberately provoked by Otto von Bismark who was the prime minister of Prussia under King William I. King William ordered Bismark expel Austria from the German Confederation. William hoped this step would unify Germany under Prussian control. The German unification would loosely tie together the German states. Bismark used the Seven Weeks War as a part of his campaign to force Austria out of the German Confederation making Prussia the dominant power in Germany.
Otto von Bismark had planned to arrange the unification of all the German states except for Austria and Switzerland, who were under Prussian control. To accomplish his objectives, Bismark went to war three times. The first of the three wars was The War Against Denmark. Bismark cleverly persuaded Austria to join Prussia in declaring war against Denmark in 1864. Austria and Prussia won the war and forced Denmark out of the dispute over the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein. Prussia got control of Schleswig and Austria took control of Holstein.
This was the treaty of Gastein which both Austria and Prussia accused each other of breaking. The treaty stated that Austria would get Schleswig and that Prussia would get Holstein. They both agreed to have peace between them. This war accomplished two objectives for Bismark. It heightened Europe’s awareness of Bismarck’s military power. Also, the tensions resulting from the war gave Bismark the excuse he needed for going to war with Austria.
Later, came the second war called The Seven Weeks War. Bismark prepared for this war by removing all possible allies from Austria. He even obtained Russian help by offering aid against Polish rebels. He also forged an alliance with Italy by supporting its claim to Venetia. In return for these alliances, Bismark gained military superiority over Austria. Austria attempted to side with the Duke of Augustenburgh, yet Bismark prevented this alliance by ordering Prussian troops into Austrian-occupied Holstein. Austria sought support from the German Confederation hoping to achieve military action against Prussia. The Treaty of Gastein has now been broken and as a result, Bismark declares war against Austria.
This war included four principal battles. The first battle was the battle of Custozza and took place on June 24, 1866. This battle was fought on Italian soil and was led by Bismarck’s ally Victor Emmanuel II. The Austrians were led by field marshall Josef Radetzky. The battle of Custozza ended with the defeat of Italy Bismarck’s ally.
The second battle was called the battle of Munchengratz. This battle took place in Munchengratz, Bohemia on June 27, 1866. The Austrians fought a delaying action as they were forced to retreat toward Gitschin, Bohemia. In the face of a large Prussian force of 140,000 men. Two days later the Austrians were forced to retreat to Gitschin again. The Austrian commander, Eduard von Clam-Gallas was relieved of his command after the retreats at Munchengratz and Gitschin.
The third battle took place on German soil and called the Battle of Langensalza from June 27 through June 29, 1866. Prussia had a large 50,000 troop force while Austria had just 12,000 troops. Hannoverian and Austrian allies repulsed the initial attack on June 27. On June 29 the Prussians consolidated their forces and Hanoverians were forced to surrender. The Prussian commander, Eduard Vogel von Falkenstein claimed the Hannoverian land for Prussia.
The final and most crucial battle of the war was the battle of Koniggratz. This battle took place at Sadowa, Bohemia on July 3, 1866. The Prussian commander, Count Helmuth Karl von Moltke and the Austrian commander Ludwig August von Benedek assembled the greatest number of troops for a European battle of all time. Some 278,000 Prussian men would battle 271,000 Austrians at Koniggratz.
The battle began when Austrian’s attacked the Prussian troops some 65 miles out of Prague, a city in Bohemia. The Prussians were able to hold their position until a larger force under Crown Prince Frederick William arrived at the battlefield. The Crown Prince struck the Austrians from the right flank. The Austrian counterattack failed to force the Austrian troops to retreat. This battle proved to be Prussia’s victory and Austria’s defeat.
The war between Austria and Prussia that began on June 14 1866 ended just Seven weeks later. For Bismark, the conflict had been a limited war with limited objectives. Its purpose was to separate Austria from Germany and end any chance for a united Germany under Austrian control. A treaty ending the war was negotiated in the city of Prague. The settlement included eliminating the German Confederation, gave Holstein to Prussia, and Venetia to Italy. The treaty concluded by calling for a new organization of Germany, one not involving Austria. The new alliance the North German Confederation.
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