xxxxxThe Duchies of Schleswig-
THE SECOND SCHLESWIG WAR 1864 (Vb)
Map (Denmark): from https://faculty.history.wisc.edu/Sommerville. Map (Schleswig-
xxxxxThe Duchies of Schleswig-
xxxxxThe First Schleswig War, led by the sizeable German population and supported by troops from both the kingdom of Prussia and the German Confederation, dragged on for three years, prolonged by periods of truce and political wrangling. The Danes, aided by forces from Sweden, fought well, but they would have been defeated had it not been for the diplomatic intervention of the Great Powers of Europe. In August 1848, soon after the outbreak of the fighting, they came out against any dismemberment of Denmark. They did not want to see Kiel fall into Prussian hands. Indeed, Britain even threatened to send a fleet to maintain the status quo. Then, with the conflict entering its third year, they produced the London Protocol of May 1851, describing the integrity of Denmark as a “European necessity”, and declaring that the duchies of Schleswig-
xxxxxWhen Frederick VII died without heir in 1863, the November Constitution, introduced by his successor, Christian IX, made Schleswig an integral part of Denmark. This was seen as a violation of the London Protocol. Christian IX was not, in fact, the first in line, this fell to Friedrich von Augustenburg. Though by-
xxxxxIn the conflict that ensued, generally named the Second Schleswig War, the Danes were heavily outnumbered. They had some 38,000 troops, but Prussia alone had 43,000, and Austria had an army of some 28,000. Furthermore the Danes were outgunned, their standard rifle was inefficient, and they lacked logistical support. They were to prove no match for the new Prussian army, a highly disciplined, well equipped force. At the beginning of February 1864 Prussian and Austrian forces crossed the border into Schleswig and within three days had pushed the Danes back to the Danevirke an ancient line of earth and stone ramparts which, apart from a few miles either side, stretched across the neck of the Jutland peninsula. A brief stand was made there, but on the night of the 5th February, fearing that this defence line could be easily outflanked, the Danish commander ordered a withdrawal to Flensburg, leaving behind all his heavy artillery in order to make the going easier. With the Prussians and Austrians soon in pursuit, however, the withdrawal, slowed down by a heavy snowstorm, quickly turned into a desperate and costly retreat. Six hundred men were captured or killed before the exhausted army reached the fort at Dybbol and Als island.
xxxxxThe following month saw a number of skirmishes, the Austrian capture of Vejle, and the beginning of the Prussian bombardment of the Danish fortress of Dybbol. Some 65,000 shells were eventually unleashed on this stronghold before it was stormed and captured by 10,000 Prussian troops in mid-
xxxxxThexpeace settlement was eventually signed at the Treaty of Vienna at the end of October, and during the next month Prussian and Austrian troops withdrew from Jutland. During the war the Danes lost close on 14,500 men, killed and wounded, the Prussians 3,500, and the Austrians 1,100. And as a result of the treaty, Denmark lost 40% of its land area, and its population was reduced from 2.6 to 1.6 million. In the south, its new frontier along the Kongea River was 150 miles north of the pre-
xxxxxThexDuchies themselves were not given, in fact, to the Duke of Augustenburg. In accordance with an agreement, cleverly engineered by Bismarck at the Gastein Convention in the August of 1865, Denmark ceded Schleswig to Prussia and Holstein to Austria. It was an arrangement which Bismarck could clearly exploit to the full. Unsurprisingly, It was not long before disagreement broke out between the two countries over the administration of the territories, providing Bismarck with a convenient pretext to go to war. As we shall see, the Austro-
xxxxxIncidentally, there were two significant naval encounters during the Second Schleswig War: the Battle of Rugen in March and the Battle of Heligoland in May (illustrated). In both actions the Danes proved successful in preventing the Prussians from breaking their naval blockade of the area. ……
xxxxx…… For a conflict lasting a mere nine months -
xxxxx…… The Battle of Dybbol, fought on the 18th April, is a military memorial day in Denmark. A ceremony of remembrance, attended by soldiers in period uniforms, takes place on Dybbol fort hill.
xxxxx…… Lord Palmerston, the British prime minister at the time, is quoted as saying that only three people understood the Schleswig-
xxxxx…… Towards the end of the Second World War (1939-
The First Schleswig War